British Columbia ’s abundance of wildlife is one of its biggest drawcards. To help preserve this unique resource, obey fishing and hunting regulations and use common sense.
Do not feed the animals. Many animals may seem tame, but feeding them endangers yourself, the animal, and other visitors. Animals become aggressive when looking for handouts.
Store food safely. When camping, keep food in your vehicle or out of reach of animals. Just leaving it in a cooler isn’t good enough.
Keep your distance. Although it’s tempting to get close to animals for a better look or a photograph, it disturbs the animal and, in many cases, can be dangerous.
Drive carefully. The most common cause of premature death for larger mammals is being hit by cars.
Bears are dangerous, and while bear-human encounters happen regularly, their infamous reputation far exceeds the actual number of attacks that occur (in the last 20 years, black bears have accounted for 12 fatalities and grizzly bears for 5 within British Columbia ). That said, common sense is your best weapon against an attack. First and foremost, keep a safe distance, particularly if cubs are present — the protective mother will not be far away. Never harass or attempt to feed a bear, and resist the temptation to move in for an award-winning close-up photo; they are wild animals and are totally unpredictable.
Before heading out on a hike, ask local park or forest-service staff about the likelihood of encountering bears in the area, and heed their advice. Travel in groups, never by yourself. Out on the trail, watch for signs of recent bear activity, such as fresh footprints or scat.
Make noise when traveling through dense woods (take a noisemaker — a few rocks in a soft-drink can or a bell — or let out a loud yell every now and again to let wildlife know you’re coming). Bear spray has become popular in recent years, but don’t trust your life to it by taking unnecessary risks.
Bears will usually avoid you; however, you may come across the odd bruin. Bear talk is a favorite topic in the north, and everyone who has ever spent time in the wilderness has his or her own theory about the best course of action in the event of an encounter or an unlikely attack.
On a few things, everyone agrees: Stay in a group and back away slowly, talking firmly the whole time; do not run — a bear can easily outrun a human. Black bears can climb trees but grizzlies can’t. If an attack seems imminent and it’s a black bear, the general consensus is to try to fight the animal off; if it’s a grizzly, drop to the ground in a hunched-up position, covering your neck, and play dead.
Park staff can supply you with bear-aware literature, and many books have been written on the subject. One of the best is Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance (Lyons Press, 2002), by Canadian bear expert Stephen Herrero.