Alberta Wildlife – How to Handle Bear Encounters

Posted on: August 9, 2018

Alberta is home to all sorts of beautiful national parks filled with gorgeous and majestic wildlife. Backpackers, hikers, and tourists have the opportunity to visit Alberta’s parks to see nature up close and personal.

However, Alberta is home to many bears which can potentially pose a threat.

Before heading out for that hike, make sure you’re prepared by reading this guide on Alberta wildlife and what to do if a bear is spotted.

What To Expect From Bears And Alberta Wildlife

Alberta is the proud home to both black and grizzly bears, two of the more common types of bears in North America.

Aside from their obvious aesthetic differences (the hump on the back indicating a Grizzly, also known as a Brown Bear), you can tell which type of bear is near according to its tracks. A black bear will leave tracks that follow a natural arc. Claw marks may or may not be visible.

In contrast, astute observers will note that grizzly bear tracks feature claw marks in a straight line and are often wider than those of their ursine brethren.

Both species eat plants as well as fish, so don’t be surprised if you see them near fishing spots in rivers and streams.

What to Do in Case of a Bear Encounter

Generally speaking, bears tend to be more afraid of people than people are of bears. As a result, they tend to steer clear of areas where they know people will be unless they can detect food. As a precaution, campers should ensure that all foods are sealed in bear-proof containers.

However, if a bear does approach, it’s important to have a clear plan of action. Here are a few tips on how to escape an encounter unharmed.

Stay Calm

First and foremost, don’t shout or approach the bear. Any sudden movements may come across as a direct threat, resulting in an act of aggression on the bear’s part.

The calmer you are, the less likely the bear is to attack. That goes for speech, as well. Shouting can seem like a great way to scare the bear off, but the best approach is to speak to the bear in a soft, even tone.

Don’t Make Sudden Movements

Of all the animals in Alberta, bears are without a doubt the most intimidating. Therefore, it’d make sense that one’s natural reaction would be to run away.

However, doing so would be a huge mistake. Running can trigger a bear’s natural instinct to chase you.

It’s unlikely that the bear will approach. If it begins to approach, back away slowly without turning away from the bear.

Black Bears And Grizzly Bears: Understanding the Major Differences

Despite what pop culture may portray, neither species of bear are often aggressive. Bears will typically leave humans alone as long as they don’t feel threatened.

While odds of a bear attack are one in 2.1 million, reacting in the right manner may save a life, so it’s important to have a plan of action, as their temperaments differ quite a bit due to evolution.

In Case of a Grizzly Bear Attack

Grizzlies are quite curious creatures and rarely if ever mean any harm. They’re quite docile for the most part. With that said, should a human encroach upon their personal space or approach a cub, expect to see a more vicious side.

Should a grizzly bear approach and attack, play dead, lay on your stomach, keep your hands interlocked around the back of your neck and legs sprawled out for the duration of the attack. Most will give up after around two minutes, so surviving the initial attack is the hardest part.

As soon as possible, seek shelter like a car or building. Though it may be tempting, don’t count on trees as shelter. Grizzlies aren’t as efficient climbers as their counterparts, but they can still scurry up a tree when they need to.

In Case of a Black Bear Attack

In contrast, a passive approach won’t help when it comes to an aggressive or predatory black bear. While they’re still quite docile, as well, they tend to get territorial more often than brown bears.

Therefore a more direct approach is recommended should a black bear become aggressive. Black bear claws are a little more than half the size of grizzly claws, but they still pack quite a wallop, so the use of one’s surroundings is necessary in case of an attack.

Make yourself as large and intimidating as possible. Use anything in the immediate area as a weapon, be it rocks, sticks, or even fists and attack as energetically as possible. Try and aim attacks at vital areas such as the bear’s face.

Critical Info

Aggressive, Predatory Bears: Although this is incredibly uncommon if you ever encounter a bear of any species that is predatory or aggressive the best thing to do is fight back with everything you have. The best way to do this?

BEAR SPRAY: If you’re out in the wilderness enjoying the beauty of the Lakeland, the most important tool you can carry is Bear Spray. This highly potent form of pepper spray could save your life. Search Youtube for how to properly operate a canister of bear spray and always keep it accessible.

Enjoy Nature While Staying Safe

The vast majority of Alberta wildlife is remarkably docile and passive. Yet it never hurts to know what to do in case disaster strikes.

Want to learn more about Alberta’s wildlife or great places to visit in Lakeland? Be sure to contact us today with any questions.

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