Wildlife

While camping is a great way to get out of your home, it also throws you directly into another’s.

It is important to be aware of who you are sharing the wilderness with, who is friend, who is foe, and to be properly prepared if you run into one another.

WHO TO RESPECT

Bears

Bears, especially black bears, are common in the forests of BC and Alberta, so chances of seeing one while camping are likely! Bears are highly intelligent and are led by their keen sense of smell, they can pick up a scent from a mile off. The best way to avoid attracting bears to your camp is to never leave food lying out and to clean up thoroughly after cooking meals. Always place odorous food in plastic bags inside secured containers to seal in odors and store garbage inside buildings. Never leave food or garbage outside overnight or store food inside of your tent.

Bear attacks on humans are extremely rare and are usually caused by people trying to feed, pet or crowd them, especially if it is a mother bear with cubs. When out hiking always make lots of noise! Hike in groups and sing a camp song, clap your hands, or wear a bell on your backpack so you never accidently surprise a bear. If a bear chomps its jaw, lunges, slaps or brushes the ground with a paw, they are feeling threatened by you.

Black Bear

Brown Bear

Grizzly Bear

Black Bears

Although they are called Black bears their colors can range from cinnamon brown, silver blue, and occasionally even white. Black bears are the smallest type with a straight face profile, no shoulder hump, and shorter, darker claws than Brown bears. They are great tree climbers and swimmers, they can run in short bursts up to 40km/h, and they are very intelligent but typically shy and easily frightened.

Should you run into a Black bear, stay calm! Running may trigger a chase response from a bear as you will appear like their pray. Don’t be alarmed if they stand up, they are only curious and are trying to get a better view and sense of smell.  Stand your ground and make lots of noise, Black bears are known to bluff when attacking and if you can intimidate them by making yourself appear big and loud they should run away.

Brown Bears and Grizzly Bears

Grizzly bears are a sub species of brown bears, but they are much much bigger. You can identify them by their humped shoulders and extra large paws and claws.

If you are spotted by a Grizzly stop and speak in a low calm voice to identify yourself as a human and not one of their familiar prey animals.  Avoid moving suddenly, screaming, or making loud noise.  Move backwards and sideways smoothly and slowly, especially if you spot a cub. Do not run, as it could initiate a chase and you will never outrun a bear, and do not look them in the eye.

In the rare case that a bear should choose to attack, you can play dead with a Brown or Grizzly bear. Lay on your stomach with a pack on your back, hands clasped behind your neck and legs spread to make it more difficult for the bear to turn you over. If they think you are dead they won’t think you are threatening, and should leave you alone. Continue to lay still for 10 – 20 minutes after the bear leaves because they are known to wait around and watch for movement. DO NOT play dead you think the bear is a Black bear.

Cougars, Bobcats and Lynx’s

Bobcat

Lynx

Cougar

Encountering a Cat

Big cats are extremely smart, and it’s highly likely that by the time you spot one it has already been stalking you for the past hour.  However, it is extremely rare for a mountain lion to interact with people. They are much more likely to stalk a single person than a group, and more likely to attack small kids than adults. Keep your pets close because they will go after dogs. Although they are hard to spot if they don’t want to be seen, you can keep an eye out for tracks, droppings, and claw marks on trees to let you know if there is something in the area.

Much like bears, it is great to be noisy while hiking as to not accidently startle a big cat. If you happen to spot one, stay calm, do not run, and do not turn your back. Instead face the animal and talk firmly while backing away and maintaining eye contact. If it does not flee, make yourself look as large as you can, make noise, bare your teeth and throw anything available. Never corner one, or make it feel trapped, and always make sure it has an escape route before you intimidate it into fleeing.

Lower Risk Animals

Below are the animals who are much less dangerous than mountain lions or bears, but should still always be treated with respect.

Coyotes, Foxes, Wolves

If you encounter a coyote, fox, or wolf they are likely more afraid of you then you are of them. If they do not immediately flee then simply making yourself appear large, waving your arms, shouting and throwing things should cause them to run away from you.

Moose

Moose attacks are very rare. If you encounter one and it seems unbothered by you simply give it lots of space and leave the area. If it does choose to charge you, which is very rare, it is only trying to get you out out of the area. So RUN! Moose are very fast but it is likely you will not have to run far. You can also find a place to hide or a tree to climb up.

Skunks

Skunks are nocturnal, so keep an eye out for them if you are out at night. They are most active in the fall and tend to stay close to cover such as shade or tall grass. They have poor eyesight, so upon encountering one you should immediately stop moving as to not startle it and get sprayed. Once you have determined which direction the skunk is heading, move out of its path and walk away. Skunks will only spray if they are startled, so just stay quiet and try not to move quickly.

Raccoons

Raccoons are usually nocturnal, but they can also be spotted in the daylight. Securing trash and keeping your campsite clean is a great way to not attract raccoons. They are almost always harmless, and should flee when they see you. In the rare case that they are sick or threatened they can become very aggressive. If you meet an aggressive one back away quickly, and if attacked use your jacket or backpack to protect your face, arms, neck and hands. If you are carrying pepper spray it can also be used in the case of a rabid raccoon.