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When in bear country...

Black bear in Kapuskasing Forest, ON
Black bear in Kapuskasing Forest, ON

Jill Colton, staff writer

July 11, 2010 — If you're camping or up at the cottage, you might encounter a bear scavenging for food. Here are some tips to remember if you come face to face with these wild animals.

According to B.C. Parks, most bears are simply travelling through and making a valiant effort to avoid humans. However, because of their keen sense of smell, bears can find unattended food irresistible.

Scientists have found that bears can become 'food-conditioned' when they start to associate scavenged treats with humans. When this happens, bears lose their natural fear of people, and can become a threat to park visitors when they start roaming in search of food.

Here are some things to remember to prevent food-conditioning from happening and how to avoid potentially dangerous bear encounters:

  • Never feed or approach bears or other wildlife.
  • Reduce or eliminate odours that attract bears.
  • If you're camping, store food in air-tight containers in your car or RV.
  • Pack out your garbage. Remember to store garbage with your food so bears can't get to it.
  • Don't bury your garbage.
  • Food items don't burn completely and they attract bears if left on the ground. So keep burning to paper and wood.
  • Store garbage in bear-proof containers.
  • Cook and eat away from your tent.
  • Clean up everything after eating. Don't leave cooking utensils, coolers grease or dish water lying around.
  • Cosmetics, toothpaste and perfume can leave behind odours that attract bears. Try to leave as many scented items at home as you can.


  • Sleep in a tent, not under the stars.
  • Solo hiking is not advised. You reduce the risk of an attack by travelling as a group.
  • Keep pets leashed (keeping pets at home is even better). Free-running pets can anger bears and provoke an attack.
  • Watch out for bear signs like tracks, droppings, bitten trees, trampled vegetation.
  • Make warning sounds and loud noises if you spot a bear. Make a wide detour and leave the area immediately.
  • If you encounter a bear, leave the area quickly and report it to park staff as soon as possible.

    • Bears have excellent eyesight, good hearing and a great sense of smell.
    • Black bears are agile tree-climbers; mature grizzlies are poor climbers -- but can reach up to four metres.
    • When bears are standing up, they are usually trying to identify you.
    • Talk slowly so it knows who you are, move away and keep the bear in view at all times.
    • Do not make direct eye contact with a bear.
    • Do not run unless you're very close to a secure place.
    • Consider dropping your pack to distract it.
    • All information for this article was provided by the B.C. Parks website in conjunction with the Ministry of Environment.

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