Sat, Jul 10 2010 - FREE:Travel Safely In Bear Country - Workshop (View Original Event Details)

Event Coordinator(s): Sylvia(1) A.
Participants:Gord P, Jordy, Randy J, Robert J.

Write Up:
Gordon Parker attended the course and wrote an article about it on "Trail Peak" about what he learned about bears. Very interesting read(see below). Thanks Gord. There used to be some words of wisdom about bear encounters, something about fight a Black Bear and play dead with a Griz. And other ones about climbing / don't climb a tree. Apparently this has all evolved a bit. I was fortunate enough to attend a Travel Safely In Bear Country - Workshop seminar sponsored by the Calgary Area Outdoor Council (www.caoc.ab.ca ) and I in turn was sponsored by the Calgary Outdoor Club. The workshop was led by Jay Honeyman, founder of the Karelian Bear Shepherding Institute of Canada ( http://www.bearconflict.org ). Jay appears to live, eat and breathe bears and in one form or another, they are his full-time job. He says his course reflects the 'state-of-the-art' in bear awareness. So I learned many interesting things but please note: None of these are hard-n-fast rules, they are statistically valid, but Your Bears may vary. Whether a bear is Black or Griz is not that important as they both can act the same way. What makes a bigger difference is observing if the bear is in a defensive or non-defensive frame of mind. Defensive generally means it's feeling cornered and wants to get the hell outta Dodge ASAP. He might beat you up but his primary purpose is to get away from you. Non-defensive is often worse and can range from being curious to a worst case of predatory (and you're the prey). With a defensive bear, talk calmly, move away slowly as long as they're not moving towards you. Group together and usually stand your ground against an approaching bear, even if bluff-charging. When they turn away, you can turn sideways and slowly move away. If the bear is between a rock and a hard place, give them room to escape and/or room to get to their cubs. A curious bear may continue to pursue you. This is where your problems start. Move upwind so they get your scent. Shouting may provoke them. How habituated to they are to humans will skew their response. A Banff bear will be somewhat more ambivalent towards you than a Highwood House (middle-of-nowhere) bear. A bear that is used to scaring people away from their food or fishing catch learns to do that. And usually contracts high-speed lead poisoning within a very short order - help to stop this behaviour, it is killing more bears than any other single cause. Also, how dominant a bear is will skew their responses. Big, healthy, confident, adult males are the top o' the heap and get the best territory, adolescents and females are pushed away from these areas and more often end up in townsites. Taking a dominant response to a dominant bear will not end well, most likely they will want to fight it out. Best Practices are - PREVENTION - avoid their habitat and trail areas. On hot days they might be napping down in the shade beside a creek too. - GROUPS - 4 plus will generally be deterrent enough, 6 is better. And that's 6 together, not one person off with the camera. - Walk / camp in open areas as they will generally avoid you if they see you. - Make noise so you don't surprise them - Dispose of your grey water in latrines or creeks, don't toss it in the woods as the smells linger. Bear Deterrents Sound - Noise is good - bells are annoying but do help - bangers are iffy (and DANGEROUS, they have killed people accidentally) Bear Spray - used correctly it can be 98% effective ! - Good ONLY up to 5-8 m away, that's REALLY close when you're freaked out, but there is no sense in 'blowing in the wind'. - A typical mid size can (225 gram) will spray ONLY 6 seconds of product, don't spend it all in one place. - It can also be 98% effective in disabling the user, watch the wind and the nozzle, remember YOU will be *very* stressed when using it. Bear encounters are statistical and the losing lottery ticket is a solo hiker who at dawn or dusk likes to bushwhack through the berry brambles around The Fortress. By making good choices, you'll probably never have a bear encounter. Get some friends, join the COC, etc. I even learned bear poop (sorry, Scat) can vary dramatically depending on their recent diet. Runny & full of seed if the berry crop is good; Black tar if they lucked out on a big meat feast; Furry if they started at the outside of a moose or other ungulate, and as the joke goes, smelling of pepper with bells in it if they came across a slow hiker. Jay is available for many types of related training courses, so if you have a need for these, by all means get in touch with him through their web site above. Last Word: Report Bear Encounters: Banff NP 403-762-4506 - Bow Valley/Kananaskis: 403-591-7755 Sign up for the Bear Activity e-mails http://www.wildsmart.ca Gord Parker Alberta co-editor