Precautions While Hiking

If You See A Bear At A Distance

If You Surprise A Bear

The Bear's Actions: Your Actions:

Precautions While Camping

Camp Location: Camp Food: Your Tent:

A Bear Entering Your Camp

grizzly bear black bear
  • Occasional in any mountain environment.
  • Usually at low elevations in spring.
  • Usually above timberline in summer.
  • Avalanche paths are a favorite habitat.
  • Fairly common in any habitat below treeline.
  • Most common in montane woods.
  • Trees offer escape from Grizzlies
  • Lots of variation: black to tawny.
  • Grizzled: white tipped hairs especially on shoulders and back.
  • Color often streaky- lighter here, darker there.
  • Black, often with a white spot on chest.
  • Light reddish brown (cinnamon) less common.
  • Usually have tan muzzles.
  • Generally uniform color.
  • Round dished face, smaller ears.
  • Very long, usually light colored claws are easily visible.
  • Shoulder hump.
  • Long face, larger ears.
  • Short dark colored claws seldom seen.
  • Smaller sized bear.
  • More active in the daytime.
  • Intolerant, shy of humans.
  • Often active at night.
  • Far more tolerant of humans.
  • Favorites: sweetvetch, cow parsnip, horsetails, whitebark pine seeds, buffaloberries, other berries.
  • Marmots, ground squirrels.
  • Weak or young ungulates- often covering their kill with plants and soil.
  • Roots and tubers are dug extensively.
  • Diet is 75% vegetarian, 10-15% carrion, 5-10% insects.
  • Spring, Summer: sprouting plants, buds and inner bark of shrubs and trees, flowers - especially dandelions.
  • Fall: fruits, berries
Bear Myths: Reality
are slow Bears can sprint 60 km/h over short distances.
can't climb All bears can climb. Black bears are better climbers. Large males seldom inclined to climb.
can't see well Bears' eyesight is about as good as humans. Hearing is better. Smell is extremely good.
afraid of dogs Bears chase and can easily kill dogs. Dogs may run to you for protection.
can't swim Bears love water and are good swimmers.
Black Bears are safe All bears can be dangerous, and should be treated as such.

Should You Be Worried About Bears?

Being on edge worrying about bears takes away a lot of the enjoyment of being outdoors. By taking the simple precautions mentioned above you will in all likelihood never see a bear let alone make contact with one. You are more likely to be hit by lightning than to be hurt by a bear (there are 190 lightning fatalities for every bear related fatality in North America). In almost all cases bears want to avoid you- let them know of your presence, try not to surprise them. A very few bears have been habituated to people and associate them with food. This habituation is caused by careless people leaving behind food and garbage. Be meticulous about food and garbage, do not give a bear a reason to approach you. If everyone does their part people and bears can co-exist. If you want to worry about bears then worry about their future and their survival. We are the problem, not them.





Elk and moose can be nonchalant but usually prefer to avoid human contact. There are two times however when these animals can be aggressive and dangerous:


Mountain lions (cougar, puma) are present in areas we hike, but are seldom seen. Attacks on humans are rare, although children are susceptible, especially when alone. A cougar incident did occur in 1970 on a Rambler hike to Kindersley Pass in Kootenay Park. It is written up in the Ramblers' History book. Daphne Smith become separated from the main group, and while in a wooded section a cougar inflicted a flesh wound to her arm. For about 1 hour she had a standoff with the cougar - basically talking to it and calming it down. When the rest of the group arrived, the cat ran off. Accepted advice is to aggressively fight back if attacked and not to act passively, although in Daphne's case being passive did work. Generally mountain lions do not pose a threat, especially when in a group.


Wolves pose no threat to humans. Consider yourself lucky to see a wolf.


During the fall hunting season primates can be directly and indirectly dangerous to hikers: