How to avoid being attacked by a bear

With a man and woman on the mend after being attacked by a grizzly while camping in the Waiparous area northwest of Calgary, animal experts are again offering advice on how to avoid coming into conflict with bears while enjoying the great outdoors.

Studies show bear spray more effective than firearms

Tips for avoiding a bear attack

6 years ago
Duration 0:34
Five tips for avoiding a bear attack while in the backcountry

With a man and woman on the mend after being attacked by a grizzly while camping in the Waiparous area northwest of Calgary, animal experts are again offering advice to remember when heading into the backcountry to avoid coming into conflict with bears.

Here are six tips to avoid being attacked, and if you are, giving yourself the best chance of survival.

1. Make a lot of noise 

Yell and shout while you're out on the trails to let any bears in the area know you're nearby. 

"The first thing to remember about safety around bears when hiking or walking in their habitat is that bears don't like surprises," said Stephen Herrero, a bear expert and professor emeritus at the University of Calgary. 

"Surprises worry them there might be another bear or something that's threatening, either to them or their family," Herrero said.

The findings on nuisance behaviour were based on the study of 2,043 grizzlies in Alberta, British Columbia and Montana. (Spencer Rettler)

To reduce the chances of a surprise bear encounter, make as much noise as you can on the trails, said Daniella Rubeling with Alberta Environment and Parks. 

Rubeling said bear bells typically aren't loud enough, and she recommends bringing a whistle, or just your loudest voice.

"Shout like a crazy person," she offered.

2. Always carry bear spray — and use it

"We've done a lot of research on the efficacy of bear spray going on 20 years now and all the studies point to positive results," said Herrero.

"And in fact, a major analysis suggests bear spray is more effective than firearms."

3. Act human

If you see a bear, speak to it clearly and firmly to show you're not a prey animal.

Use a calm voice and adopt a passive stance. 

This indicates that you are not a prey animal. 

If you see a bear, report the sighting to Kananaskis Country Emergency Services at 403-591-7755. (File Photo)

4. Never run

Regardless of what type of bear you encounter, be it grizzly or black, Rubeling advises you to take the same approach.

"If you do happen to surprise a bear or run into a bear, leave them and give them their space," she said.

Back away slowly, leave the way you came, keep your eye on the bear but avoid direct eye contact, she advised.

Do not make any sudden movements which could provoke the bear, and do not run away, she said.

5. Travel with a group

Groups tend to be louder and appear more intimidating to wild animals. This can help deter a bear encounter.

If you're travelling with a dog, make sure you keep it on a leash, as required by law.

"Then it allows you to have control of your dog and take your dog with you, because again, we don't want to have the bears feeling threatened," said Rubeling.

Preventing bear encounters helps to protect not only humans, but also the animals, who are extremely sensitive to the stress of human activity. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

6. Look and listen

It's important to be aware of your surroundings at all times when out in the backcountry.

This means leaving your earphones out and staying alert to the possibility of a bear encounter.

Watch for fresh bear signs. Tracks, scat and digs indicate that a bear has been in the area.

Leave the area if the signs are fresh or if you encounter carrion.