With spring officially on its way, it’s a given that BC’s bear population will soon be waking up from winter hibernation and heading out into the wilderness once again.
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The warmer weather also means more people will be getting outside to enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer, and this can sometimes mean that bears and humans will cross paths.
And for those who want the latest status on whether their favourite hiking trail, campsite, or fishing hole is a current bear hangout as well, a handy online tool gives a sense of where bears have been seen, and when.
Known as the Wildlife Alert Reporting Program (WARP), the interactive map comes courtesy of the British Columbia Conservation Foundation, (BCCF) and is meant to give people an idea of where a bear encounter could potentially take place – and take the necessary precautions as a result.
Search results can also be filtered by date, location, species, attractants, the type of encounter, the outcome, and the group/ agency.
According to the BBCF, the WARP program was developed by WildSafeBC to enable the public to view reports of wildlife in British Columbia.
Reports are received once a day from the Conservation Officer Service (COS) and presented on a georeferenced map. The public can also create their own account and enter their own reports. However, these reports are not sent to the Conservation Officer Service.
Reports of dangerous wildlife in an urban setting or reports of wildlife in conflict should always be reported to the COS 24 hour hotline at 1-877-952-7277. This is also the number for Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP).
Staying safe in bear country
Bears are extremely sensitive to human disturbance and activity. Avoiding an encounter is the best way to protect both yourself and bears.
Before you go
- Pack bear spray, and learn how to use it
- Check the park web page for any specific information about bears in the area
- Look for notices about bears in the area when you arrive at a campground or trailhead
- Ensure human and pet food, garbage, dirty campstoves, recyclables, toiletries and all other smelly items are locked away in a metal bear-proof container provided in the park, your car or hung from a tree away from your campsite.
- Dispose of grey water in designated areas, away from your camp site.
When on a trail
- Make noise. Don’t surprise a bear. Call, sing, clap or talk loudly especially near streams and in areas of low visibility.
- Be alert. Watch for bears or their scat and tracks, any strange smells or disturbed vegetation. Be aware of wind direction and speed. Extra caution is warranted when the wind is facing you.
- Stay together. Hike and bike in groups and don’t let children wander. Larger groups (4 or more) are less likely to have a negative bear encounter.
- Watch your pets. Keep your dog on a leash at all times. Dogs can provoke defensive bear behaviour.
- Use officially marked trails. Travel during daylight hours. Bears are most active at dawn and dusk.
If you encounter a bear
- Stay calm – if the bear sees you, talk in a low, calm voice, regardless if it has seen you or not.
- Back up slowly –never turn your back on a bear, or run. Running could trigger an attack.
- Do not stare – the bear will see a direct stare as a challenge.
- Give it space – Make sure it has a way to get away, and that you are not blocking access to a bear’s cubs or its food.
If a bear approaches you or charges:
- Do not run
- Use your bear spray as it approaches
- Play dead or fight back
Usually, bears charge or attack because they are feeling threatened. Use your bear spray. If you don’t have bear spray and the bear makes contact with you – roll on your stomach, cover the back of your neck, remain still and play dead, they will lose interest and leave.
In rare cases, a bear may see a human as prey and stalk you along a trail. In these cases, try to escape into a building, car or up a tree. If you cannot escape and the bear charges, use your bear spray, lacking that, use anything at your disposal to fight off the bear (rocks, sticks, hiking poles).
The differences between black bears and grizzly bears can be found here: