Bear Update: Responding to Black Bear Encounters Michael Allen Black Bear Researcher Bears are out so now is the time for Whistler to enter its bear proof period. All organic human attractants should be contained inside and dumped frequently at compactors or re-cycling depots. Human food bear attractants are garbage, re-cycling, bird food, pet food, composts, and barbecues. Bird feeders appear to be one of the major attractants during spring because seed from winter feeding is uncovered from snow melt, attracting bears. Bears damage decks, doors, and windows trying to climb up to feeders. Each time a bear feeds on bird seed or another attractant its life is shortened, with increasing odds that when the bear returns to feed, someone will complain and the bear will be destroyed or repelled by a rubber bullet, only to visit another human attractant source. A black bear’s life revolves around food. So when a bear comes close to people in residential communities, they are looking for food — natural and human. Black bears have adapted to people and their activities by tolerating human presence in order to benefit from enhanced natural foods (berries, clover, dandelions, fruit trees) or human foods (garbage, bird food, pet food, etc.). This process of learning and toleration is called habituation. Bears habituate to people and their activities in order to feed on natural food and human food close to people. It is OK for a bear to become habituated to people and the areas in which they live so long as the bear is not feeding on human foods. We have to keep garbage and other human foods away from bears so they do not become conditioned to our foods. When a bear is conditioned to looking for and consuming human foods they can begin to lose their natural interest in foraging for natural foods. Conditioned bears can be aggressive at the human food source. The following is a guideline for responding to encounters with black bears. Cut this out and tape it somewhere where you can consult and learn. Remember bear attacks are extremely rare but situations are unpredictable under different levels of human pressure. You should learn about bear behaviour, sign, and habitat in order to prevent confrontations. Questions about bears may be directed to 935-1176 or e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Response Guide for Black Bear Encounters Source: Coast Mountain Black Bear Resources (email@example.com) BEAR BEHAVIOR YOUR REACTION HUMAN BEHAVIOR Bear runs in front of you on a trail or road – This is the most common type of bear encounter. Bears usually know that you are close that’s why they are moving quickly to pass by you. Stop, watch, and listen Wait then walk by talking and listening Don’t approach right away. Stop, watch, and listen for signs of the bear stopping and coming back. Listen for blowing/coughing, twigs snapping, rustling of bushes, and claws scraping on bark. Back up to give yourself more room and clear view of area. Look around – are there ripe berries? Are you by a creek where lush green vegetation grows? The bear may be feeding here. Begin talking loudly so that the bear knows you are there. Wait a few minutes, if you don’t here anything approach slowly down the trail talking and listening. Mother bear and cubs/yearlings in front of you on a trail or road – This is another common type of encounter. Cubs and yearlings are not always visible all the time. Young climb trees when scared and may bawl or wail. Mother sits at base of tree. Bear families are often found close to people. Stop, watch, back-up, and talk quietly Stop and watch then begin backing up slowly while talking. Never approach a bear for any reason. Listen for young climbing trees. Always give mother bears lots of room. If she doesn’t leave the area - you have to. Do not attempt to move around her. Bear is close ( < 100 feet) and not aware of you – Head down while feeding or back is toward you. Bears frequently feed and travel through residential communities. Common to see bears along the Valley Trail from April to October. Be aware - don’t talk and leave quietly Leave quietly, immediately – if you are close to the bear talking or making any type of noise will startle the bear. Bear is in backyard feeding on natural bear foods (grass, dandelions, berries, etc.) – Very common situation to have bear wander into residential neighbourhood where natural foods are enhanced. Be aware of bear – do not over react Tell children Bear proof attractants Report non-contained garbage Don’t over-react to natural bear activity. Bears come close for natural and human foods. If feeding on natural foods the bear will likely leave. Ensure no attractants are outside, inform children and bring in dogs (don’t worry about cats). If you know of a potential source of garbage in neighborhood, call RMOW bylaw. Bear is in backyard trying to access attractant (garbage, bird feeder, compost, etc.) Let the bear eat the attractant Inform neighbours of bear activity If the bear is not doing damage to property let him eat the attractant. When bear leaves clean up attractant and bear proof. Inform neighbours of bear activity. Bear damaging property or breaking into residential structure – bears will on occasions, try and break into contained attractants. Garbage stored for many days inside during summer will attract bears. Family safety first Call RCMP or Conservation Officer Make sure children and pets are safe then call RCMP or Conservation Officer. Do not attempt to deal with bear. If bear continually damages small structure (storage shed) – remove any attractants and leave door open to reduce damage. Bear is aware of you (general encounter) – Head is up and ears are cupped forward in your direction. Sensing you – raising nose up and down while opening mouth. Stop and watch Never approach a bear for any reason. Face the bear, note what he is doing (feeding, walking by, etc.), and think how to react. Natural defensive behavior – Pacing around huffing, blowing, chuffing jaws (expelling air while open-closing mouth quickly), and swatting ground – bear is telling you to leave. Back-up and talk Walk backwards slowly while talking. Talking tells the bear what you are and how far you are away. Never run to or from a bear. Bear begins walking towards you – Bears are curious especially living so close to people. Back-up, wave arms, and shout Continue backing up – it’s very important to keep as much distance as possible between yourself and the bear. Act big and noisy. Do not run. Bear coming closer ( < 30 feet) – On rare occasions male bears develop predatory behaviour. Back-up, shout, and throw object at bear Continue backing up and shouting. Throw object at bear (rock, branch, ski pole, etc.). Act aggressive. Bear coming close ( < 10 feet) and you cannot get somewhere safe Back-up and drop object between bear and yourself Continue backing up – stop shouting. Drop a hat, gloves, jacket, back-pack, helmet, or bike to distract the bear. Bears are curious and will investigate giving you time to get away. Do not run. Unknown bear is physically lunging and attacking – Bears charge and attack low to the ground. Standing on hind legs is not aggressive. Most black bear attacks are single males. Fight back If you have nowhere to retreat safely and the bear is attacking – fight back by hitting the bear in the face with anything you can find. Do not play dead and curl up in a ball – bears will injure you more. Mother bear is physically lunging and attacking (cubs or yearlings present) – attacks are in defense of young and are extremely rare! Play dead If you have nowhere to get safely and a mother bear is attacking – curl up in a ball and play dead. Bear is reacting to you as a potential threat (similar to grizzly bear mothers).