by Ben Kruser
The Leader, October 1992
There's an old saying: "when a pine needle drops in the forest, a turkey sees it, a deer hears it, and a bear
smells it." Canada is bear country. Wherever we live, we go camping and hiking in what is probably
While the chances of meeting bears are relatively low, largely because of bears' disinterest in most
people, we must know how to avoid, recognize, and deal with bear encounters. CJ'93 participants will
camp right in the heart of bear country, but all of us have need of this information. It comes from an
Environment Canada Park Service brochure, titled YOU are in Bear Country.
Bears are strong and agile wild animals that will defend themselves, their young, and their territory if
they feel threatened. All bears are potentially dangerous; they are unpredictable and able to inflict
serious injury. NEVER feed or approach a bear.
Tips for Safe Camping
Put away food and garbage, strong attractions to bears. Keep your campsite clean and never leave
around food, garbage, coolers, cooking equipment or utensils. Lock food in the trunk of your vehicle or
hang it at least 4 m off the ground between two trees. Several campgrounds have bear poles or steel food
Do not cook or eat in or near your tent or tent trailer. The lingering odours of food invite bears. Clean
utensils and put garbage in containers immediately after eating. Do not get food odours on your clothing
or sleeping bag. Sleep in different clothing than what you wear for cooking. Use a flashlight at night.
Many animals feed at night, and a flashlight may warn them away.
Tips for Safe Hiking
Bears feel threatened if surprised. Hike in a group and make loud noises. Whistle, talk, sing, or carry a
noise maker (e.g. bells). Most bears will leave if they are aware of your presence. Stay in the open as
much as possible. Keep children close at hand on trails.
Be especially alert when traveling into the wind. A bear may not get your scent and be warned of your