Gateway to the Great Bear Rainforest
Great Bear Rainforest Bella Coola

WildSafe BC

Web: https://wildsafebc.com/
Email:bc@wildsafebc.com
PH: 250-828-2551 ext 110

WildSafeBC is the provincial leader in preventing conflict with wildlife through collaboration, education & community solutions. It has evolved out of the highly successful Bear Aware program and is owned & delivered by the British Columbia Conservation Foundation. WildSafeBC provides information on how we can reduce human-wildlife conflicts in all aspects of our lives, including how we live, work, play & grow.

The Bella Coola Valley is home to many species of wildlife including grizzly & black bears. While many visitors are attracted to the Valley to view wildlife, it is important that it be done in a way that keeps both bears and people safe (also see: bellacoola.ca/activities/wild-life-viewing)

Avoiding Bear Encounters

Surprising a bear or encountering a food-conditioned bear should be avoided. Here are some tips to reduce the chances of this happening:

Watch for bear signs like scat, tracks, freshly overturned logs, fresh claw marks on trees.
Talk or sing to avoid surprising a bear. Be cautious around running water, thick brush or high wind that may mask your presence. Bear bells are not recommended as the high-pitched tinkle does not travel as far and is not recognized as a human.
Be aware of your surroundings Don’t use headphones when hiking, biking or running in bear country.
Manage your attractants & never put someone else at risk by leaving organics behind. Pack out what you pack in. Tossing organics (apple cores and banana peels) can attract wildlife to a roadside which may result in a vehicle collision.
Avoid hiking alone. Traveling with another person results in more noise and may also help dissuade a bear from approaching.
Keep pets leashed. In a review of black bear attacks, dogs were involved in over 50% of black bear inflicted injuries on humans. Dogs may be perceived as a potential threat or prey.
Use extra caution in bear habitat & where sightlines are poor. This includes berry bushes with ripe fruit, salmon-bearing streams & other areas bears are known to frequent. If you find a carcass leave the area immediately & notify the Conservation Officer Service and/or landowner.
Carry bear spray & be able to access it quickly. Do not carry it in your pack or attached to your bike. Learn more on our Bear Spray page.
Learn more: If heading to a Provincial or Federal park, check their websites for wildlife alerts or safety considerations. When traveling, check in with locals & visitor centres to find out about local wildlife activity. Become knowledgeable about where you may encounter bears through WildSafeBC’s Wildlife Alert Reporting Program. Take training such as a Wildlife Awareness & Safety Course offered by WildSafeBC that shows the “Staying Safe in Bear Country” video.

Special Note about Mountain Biking, Running & Camping
When mountain biking or running, you may be traveling relatively quietly & at a higher rate of speed. This can increase your chances of surprising a bear. Also, the higher speed may also trigger a chase response. Slow down around blind corners and call out more frequently to avoid surprising a bear. When camping in bear country, learn about “bare camping” best practices and follow them to avoid attracting a bear to your campsite.

Bear Encounters in the Wild

If you encounter a bear, stop, stay calm and NEVER RUN. Most bears are wary of humans and tend to avoid us. Grizzlies differ from black bears in that they evolved in treeless environments and their response to a perceived threat is to charge and assert themselves against the threat. Black bears, having evolved in treed environments would sooner climb a tree or run into a forest to escape a perceived threat. This creates the situation where surprising a grizzly is potentially more dangerous than surprising a black bear (although neither situation is advised). Occasionally, both black bears and grizzly bears may show predatory behaviour where they approach quietly and intently. What you do next depends on the bear’s behaviour.
A bear that is unaware. Leave the area quietly and go back the way you came while keeping an eye on the bear. Check your bear spray in case you need to pull it out quickly.
A bear that is aware but not reacting to your presence. Speak softly, back away slowly. If the bear leaves, let it do so and do not follow it.
A bear that seems agitated will make noises such as jaw-popping, moaning, woofing and may even stomp the ground or bluff charge. These are all signs of a bear behaving defensively and letting you know you are too close. Speak softly and calmly and back away slowly. Do not make direct eye contact but keep the bear in sight. Pull out your bear spray and be prepared to use it. If the bear charges, stand your ground and discharge the bear spray when the bear is in range (5 to 10 m). Most bluff charges stop short of contact but you may be knocked down (see below).
A bear that is steadily approaching you. The bear may simply be wanting to use the same path you are on. Yield to the bear slowly. If the bear continues to approach, this is a dangerous situation where the bear may be predatory. In this case you want to yell at the bear and get onto higher ground. Be prepared to fight for your life if the bear attacks. If you have bear spray have it ready to use when the bear is in range (5 to 10 m).
If a bear makes physical contact, how you react depends on the nature of the attack. A defensive bear attack is usually a result of a surprise encounter where a bear is protecting itself, its food source or its cubs. If it is a defensive attack by a grizzly or black bear that knocks you down, the best defense is to lie still on your stomach, protect the back of your head by clasping your hands, and spread your feet slightly apart to avoid getting rolled over. Once the bear feels that you are no longer a threat, the attack will stop. Stay still & do not get up until you are sure the bear has left the area.
If the attack does not stop & the bear tries to consume you then you are dealing with a predatory attack. You must fight off the bear with everything at hand by focusing on the bear’s face, eyes and nose. In both cases, having bear spray, and knowing how to use it, can significantly increase your chances of avoiding contact at all. For more details & training, take a Wildlife Awareness and Safety Course that shows the “Staying Safe in Bear Country” video.

Photo by Jefferson Bray

Special Note About Roadside Encounters
If you see a bear along the roadside, it may be trying to cross or it is feeding on lush vegetation or berry-producing shrubs. Use caution &  slow down but do not stop, especially on highways where speeds are in excess of 60 km/hr. If it is safe to do so (on a quiet road on a straightaway), you may be inclined to pull over. Note that this can lead to habituation of both humans & vehicles. If you do pull over, stay in your vehicle, stay a respectful distance away & do not linger. If taking photos, be respectful of your subject and abide by WildSafeBC’s Photographer Code of Conduct.

It is an offence under the BC Wildlife Act to attract dangerous animals (bears, wolves, cougars & coyotes) with unsecured attractants.

The BC Wildlife Act states that:
(1) A person must not (a) intentionally feed or attempt to feed dangerous wildlife or, (b) provide, leave or place an attractant in, on or about any land or premises with the intent of attracting dangerous wildlife.
(2) A person must not leave or place an attractant in, on or about any land or premises where there are or where there are likely to be people, in a way the attractant could (a) attract dangerous wildlife to the land or premises and be accessible to dangerous wildlife.

bs5We encourage you to report any bear sightings or conflicts in your community by calling the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277. These reports are uploaded daily to WildSafeBC’s Wildlife Alert Reporting Program (WARP) that is available for free on our website  Wildlife Alert Reporting ProgramRAPP_Logo

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