Bear safety tips when hiking a wild game reserve

Hikers of a wild bear game reserve.

What to do in a bear attack?

One couple were completing the last stages of a hike down Boundary Creek outside Waterton in southern Alberta.

Suddenly they caught sight of a bear coming down the trail toward them.

The woman, who had a pack on her back, threw herself down on the trail in a fetal position, hands behind the neck, knees up over her stomach.

Her husband froze with fear, standing about 20 feet [6 m] from her, watching the approaching bear.

The bear immediately went toward the woman, scratching at the pack on her back in an effort to get food.

It inflicted scratches on her back, hip, and buttocks.

Finally, realizing he had to do something, her husband reached into his pack and threw some sandwiches on the ground.

In doing so, a pot fell from his pack onto a rock, and the noise caused the bear to break off and scurry back into the woods.

The couple then made a hasty retreat. We had to destroy the bear, as it had been involved in previous incidents with humans.

The lesson from this is: If you are wearing a pack and are approached by a bear, get rid of the pack.

Bears will often approach people to get them to drop their packs for the food they contain; they very quickly learn to do this.

The discarded pack or camera or whatever object you have can distract the bear, buying you time to escape.

Bear safety tips

Photographers must take care to avoid getting too close to bears in efforts to take pictures.

A man and his wife were camped at a site in Glacier National Park.

They spotted a sow grizzly bear with three cubs.

The husband left with a camera that featured automatic multi-exposures.

He took the first pictures from a safe position on the slope opposite the bears.

Then he began to get overconfident, as the bears seemed to ignore his presence.

He cautiously crossed the slope until he was on the same avalanche path as the bears.

The pictures, developed later from this multi-exposure camera, showed the bears closer and closer.

He wanted to get the shot of a lifetime and was far too close to the sow, violating her space, forcing her to make a decision either to run or to attack.

The final pictures in the camera showed signs that the bear had had enough—and it charged!

The photographer tried to climb a tree, but it was too late.

The bear got to him first and inflicted fatal injuries.

In another incident in the Lake Louise area of Banff National Park, a man was bitten on the thigh and hand by a female grizzly bear.

She had two cubs with her.

The incident didn’t make sense.

She had charged from a distance of about 500 feet [150 m], leaving her cubs unprotected.

It is not likely a bear would run that distance away from her cubs to attack a person for no apparent reason.

Wardens of the park had a feeling that the hiker’s dog had gone up to the bear and that the bear had chased the dog back to its owner.

When they suggested this to the dog’s owner, he denied it, citing the park regulations that a dog must be on a leash, under physical control at all times.

When the wardens told him they will have to kill the bear.

Immediately, the hiker’s response was, “Why?”

“The bear attack appears to be unprovoked,” they answered, “so the animal has to be killed.”

He thought it over for a moment and then confessed:

“OK. You’re right. What you said is exactly what happened. My dog on the loose provoked the bear.”

Some people, when hiking the back country, feel that a dog is a protection.

It is exactly the opposite.

An untrained dog will often run up to a bear, bark, and then bring the pursuing bear back to its defenseless master.

To give another incident involving a bear attack: A child was reported to have been bitten by a bear.

Wardens learned that two children had been playing on a gravel bar while the father was fishing not far away.

The bear suddenly bolted out of the bush and grabbed one child and dragged it off.

The father rushed after the bear and retrieved the child, whom he found abandoned by the bear.

It was the wardens opinion that it was a case of mistaken identity.

The children playing down on their hands and knees could have been mistaken by the bear for fawns, or perhaps elk calves.

The bear had apparently abandoned the child of its own volition when it determined its prey was human.

Unfortunately, the one bite was enough to injure the child fatally.

So remember, bears are not tame just because they are in the park.

They can attack children and sometimes do, as this experience shows. So keep your children with you.

Another thing to remember is to make noise while in bear country.

This way you will not surprise the bears.

There is safety in numbers; a group of seven or so will displace nearly any bear.

On the other hand, if you have been relatively quiet and then see a bear and it hasn’t seen you, it may be best not to make any sudden, unexpected sound that may provoke an attack.

At times a surprised bear will bluff an attack, huffing or growling and approaching in a threatening manner.

You are too close and are being warned.

It’s time to use discretion and back out quietly, leaving the area to the bear.

This is one argument you cannot win.

So take the time to read park brochures about bears so as to know what to do and what to look for while in bear country.