I get asked about bear safety a lot. Like, “What do you do if you see a bear in Whistler?”. Luckily, unprovoked black bear attacks are almost unheard of. The major contributor to human-bear conflict is human carelessness. A bear only needs to obtain food or other attractants (like garbage) once to become conditioned to it and consequently habituated. This, unfortunately, leads them to eventual destruction (death). So while it’s important to stay safe it bear country, it all starts with us. Here are 5 ways you can stay safe and help keep Whistler bears alive.
1) Avoid the Trails at Dawn and Dusk
Bears are most active at dawn and dusk so avoid walking or biking on trails at this time. When you’re on the trails, but especially if you have to be out at dawn or dusk, avoid doing it silently or alone. Make noise so you don’t unintentionally startle the bear. As tempting as it is to listen to music along the way, it’s best to avoid it at this time. I’ve made a habit out of whistling when I’m hiking or biking so I’ll never startle a bear.
2) Do Not Stop Your Car
When you’re driving, do slow down to a cautionary speed but do NOT stop on the side of the road to view bears. Not only is it unsafe but we don’t want the bears to become habituated. We’re on their turf – give bears the space they deserve.
3) Do Not Feed the Bears
This seems like an obvious one but it’s surprising how many people have told me they’ve tried this. Please do not feed or approach a bear. If you come across a bear, keep your distance (at least 100 meters is recommended), back away slowly, and leave the area.
4) Dispose of Food and Garbage Responsibly
Not only is it important but it’s the law in Whistler to secure your garbage and recycling so bears can’t access it. The main reason a bear will come near your home or workplace is for garbage, recycling or other food sources. There are wildlife-proof containers and enclosures for garbage and recycling all over Whistler so please use them. This goes for you too Helen Hen-Do and Bachelor-party Bob – don’t throw your pizza and poutine on the ground when you’re stumbling home from the club.
5) Keep Your Pets Leashed
You may have the best trained dog but when pets come across wild animals, it can make them behave in irrational ways. It can also provoke defensive and dangerous behavior in bears. The last thing you want to do is be worried about Rover getting in a tussle with a 500lb furball.
If you’re wondering if there’s a safe and responsible way to see bears, read my post about bear viewing in Whistler.
“A fed bear is a dead bear.” You’ll see these signs all over Whistler but it still doesn’t seem to stop people from putting these wonderful creatures at risk. By following these 5 bear safety tips, and sharing them with others, we can all do our part to keep these amazing animals alive and well.
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