Going hiking, biking or hunting in bear country, have you got your bear spray? Indeed, properly used bear spray is said to be the most effective bear deterrent available, and a study co-authored by University of Calgary Professor Stephen Herrero found that attack victims using bear spray are much less likely to be injured than those defending themselves with a gun. The 2012 study, published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, showed a 92% of people using bear spray during an attack escaped injury, compared to only 50% of gun users.
We’ve had a number of incidents involving people and bears the last few months. A hunter was attacked by a grizzly bear and cub just last week. Earlier this summer a mountain biker was bluff charged four times by a grizzly bear and cubs on a popular Fernie trail and there were two other reported incidents of hikers and trail runners being bluff charged by grizzly bears that we know of.
Bears defend three things, their young, their food and their space. Surprising a bear at close range is likely to provoke defensive behavior such as a bluff charge. The safest wildlife encounter is one prevented. Make noise to warn wildlife of your presence and have bear spray accessible and know how to use it. This will give you the confidence to do the right thing and not give in to the instinct to run (which can invoke the chase instinct). The right thing being, remain calm, stop and assess the situation and back away slowly in the event of an encounter with wildlife. Bear spray is not a substitute for using common sense but can be used as your last best defence if necessary.
Recent wildlife sightings
Black bear sightings reported on MacDonald Avenue in West Fernie. Grizzly bear sightings reported on River Road Extension.
Coyotes reported on Casino Drive.