Be aware! Bears are there

Your guide to staying safe in the B.C. back country this summer

British Columbia has about one quarter of all black bears in Canada. The North Thompson Valley certainly has its share of these magnificent inhabitants of the wilderness and an observant visitor can find many signs of bear in the area. They are everywhere; along highways, on logging roads, near camp sites, in the bush, yes, travelers can expect to meet a bruin almost anywhere. Seeing a bear can be one of the most memorable experiences of a wilderness vacation, one to remember for a long time. Along with the privilege to see these creatures comes the responsibility to respect them and their home. Bears and their natural habitat face risks from increasing human development and access. Considering that there is only a relatively small amount of inaccessible wilderness left in British Columbia and a tremendously growing human interest to spend time in the back country, we must respect the fact it is home to bears. When you are in bear country, be aware, and be alert. Look for signs of recent bear activity. These include droppings, signs of digging, and claw marks on trees. Many old rotted stumps, or downed trees, will be clawed apart with bark strewn around. This is how the bear digs out the termites and other insects that make their home in old trees. Let the bears know you are there, make some noise, sing if you like, talk loudly or do anything else to make your presence known. Many people wear a bear bell to alert a bear that they are coming along the trail. Keep your children close by, and if taking photographs, use a long distance lens. It is a good idea not to take your dog on hikes; they can be a cause for bear aggression. Store your food so bears don’t smell it, they have a great sense of smell. Even a chocolate bar left in a tent can attract their attention. Most of all use your common sense, keep your distance and do not antagonize a bear. Before taking a wilderness vacation it is a good idea to read as much as possible about bears; it helps to appreciate them, and helps to avoid conflict. It is a privilege to visit the wilderness, to be a visitor in the home of bears; let’s show our appreciation by being respectful and considerate guests.