Inspired by our recent trip to North Vancouver Island (where we had over 10 bear sightings) and by many guests asking – what about bears? We thought we would help answer some questions. 

Whilst on our recent trip, we had bears in camp, bears on our hikes and bears whilst we were driving. Without too much encouragement, they will leave you alone, especially in more wilderness areas where they have not become accustomed to raiding tents for food, or being fed by tourists. But it’s important to camp responsible and not to leave out bear attractants. 

How can I avoid bears whilst camping?

Everyone wants to see bears, they are awesome, nobody wants a bear ransacking their tent though. Here are a few tips to help reduce the conflict between bears and campers. 

Food and food storage

Food is by far the biggest attractant for a bear.

Never store food in your tent – the vehicle comes with storage boxes and pull out drawers. Provided you have shut and locked the back of the vehicle, there should be no reason for food to be left out unattended. 

Provided food is locked away, a bear may walk around, but wont stay too long once they realise there is no food. 

If you are camping away from the vehicle, tie food into a bag and string up from a tree.

Coolers

If you think a cooler is enough to out-smart a bear, think again. 

They are clever creatures and will quickly work out how to open a cooler box and get at your food. Coolers shouldn’t be left unattended. Coolers with beers and cans in still count, they can open a can of beer by a curious bear. 

Pets

Whilst this is slightly hypocritical coming from someone that takes their dogs to all corners of the world. Pets are wildlife attractants, bears and other wildlife will come sniffing around because of the new and weird smells of your pets. Unleashed pets may cause a bear to investigate more thoroughly a campsite that it would have left alone. 

If you do bring your pets, keep them leashed. Trust from someone who has had bear and dog encounters, they are easier to handle if you have an already leased dog. 

Wash bags

As mentioned before, bears are curious animals and a tube of toothpaste or deodorant is as much of an attractant as food. Keep them locked in the vehicle. 

Garbage

Make sure that you have all garbage packed away. Do not leave trasharoos and other garbage devices on the back of vehicles unattended.

All garbage must be locked away in your vehicle or put into bear proof, locked garbage bins provided by the campsite.

Top bear attractants:

  1. All human food
  2. Pet food and livestock feed
  3. Garbage
  4. Cooking pots and utensils
  5. Cooking oils
  6. Fuel for stoves and lanterns
  7. Unopened canned beverages
  8. Cosmetics, insect repellents, lotions, toothpaste
  9. Bird seed and hummingbird feeders

What if you see a bear?

The most important thing to remember if you do encounter a bear is, don’t run!

If you run, you may very well trigger the bear’s predatory instincts and if it wants to catch you, it will. Stop and calmly assess the situation.

  • If the bear is not aware of you, quietly and calmly leave the area. Do not approach more closely for a picture or for any other reason.
  • If the bear is aware of you, identify yourself as a human. Talk to the bear in a calm voice and put your arms out to the side and move them slowly up and down. Avoid direct eye contact but watch it to see what it does next. The bear may run away immediately or it may look at you and then resume doing whatever it was doing, or it may approach you.
  • If the bear runs away, walk away in a direction different than the bear ran. Leave the area to avoid another encounter.
  • If the bear looks at you and then seems to ignore you, or continues looking, but does not retreat or approach, back away while you continue talking to the bear. Do not turn your back on the bear until you cannot see it and it cannot see you anymore.
  • If the bear approaches you, stop, stand your ground. Remain calm and observe the bear for clues to its mood or intentions.
    1. A defensive bear feels you are a threat.  Continue to talk to the bear and act in a non-threatening manner. When the bear stops approaching, continue backing up. If the bear approaches or charges you, stop again and wait for the bear back up a bit before you back up again.
    2. A curious or predatory bear does not make any noise, will point its ears forward and have its attention focused solely on you in a calm, non-agitated manner. If you have tried to back up and the bear continues to follow you in a slow deliberate manner and shows none of the signs of defensive aggression, you may want to try a new approach. Act aggressively, make yourself look as big as possible, make direct eye contact with the bear, yell at the bear, pick up a big stick.