When exploring bear habitat it is wise to be aware of how to behave. Here we outline what to consider when in visiting bear country.
When heading out into bear habitat, booking with a reputable and specialised wildlife tour company will ensure your safety at all times. However, it is wise to know a little bit about how to behave and what to do in case you find yourself in a situation in which you are confronted by a bear. There are only a few countries where this could potentially happen, and while it is unlikely on an organised trip to well known bear habitat, it pays to understand a little more
Bears and Humans
There is little doubt that in some parts of the world the human population has encroached on bear habitat, so there is now more of a possibility the two can cross paths, particularly in North America. In Washington State, for example, there are roughly 25,000 of the animals in the wild. In fact, they prefer to avoid human contact and are actually frightened of humans, but if they are surprised or disturbed they can be dangerous. They need to be respected and given the space and time to make their own retreat
What to Do and What Not to Do
For independent travellers, if you want to avoid an encounter when you are hiking or camping in bear habitat, you must remember to keep a clean camp. Rubbish should be kept in bags or containers that are resistant to wildlife. Food needs to be kept in doubled up plastic bags and should be stored in the boot of the vehicle you are travelling in. You can also put double wrapped food into a rucksack and hang it from a tree at least three metres above the ground and about one and a half metres from the trunk. If you're camping, sleep at least 30 metres from the area you are using for cooking, and make plenty of noise.
A Face to Face Encounter
If you do come face to face with a bear, avoid eye contact, as that can be perceived as a challenge, and therefore a threat. Stay upwind and stand up tall – it's actually a good idea to wave your hands above your head to make yourself appear bigger. Never move towards the animal and give it as much space as you can. If you're unable to move yourself away and the animal doesn’t appear to want to move, clap your hands or shout very loudly.
For those who are travelling to locations specifically to go bear watching, the tour operator and specialised naturalist guides are highly experienced in all safety aspects and you will never find yourself in any danger.