Be BearSmart

Be BearSmart This Fall

At this time of year, bears are driven to fatten up before denning for the winter months. Motivated by an intense need to eat, bears that come across kill sites, gut piles and poorly kept campsites will quickly take advantage of the easy meal they provide.

To keep yourself and those you are hunting with safe follow these guidelines.

During the hunt:

  • Carry pepper spray. Know how to use it and keep it handy. It works.
  • Hunting in groups is always safer. Develop an emergency plan with your hunting partners.
  • If you are hunting alone, let others know where you are going and when you expect to return.
  • Be extra cautious in areas where bears might feed, such as berry patches, grain fields, garbage pits, beehives and carcass sites.
  • Keep in mind that animal distress calls, mating calls, decoys and cover scents can also bring bears around.
  • Be aware that wind, rain or flowing water can mask the sound of your approach, increasing the risk of a surprise encounter with a bear.
  • If travelling with horses, watch them for signs of agitation. They could be warning you that a bear is nearby.
  • Fresh scat, clawed trees, or tracks are signs that bears have been in the area recently. If you see these signs, be extremely cautious of the bear that left them.
  • Bears will feed at all times of the day, but be extra mindful at dawn, night and dusk, when bears are most active.
  • Be alert when encountering scavengers such as magpies and ravens. They may be feeding at a kill site or carcass that can also attract a bear.

After the hunt:

  • When tracking your wounded animal, keep in mind that a bear may be doing the same thing.
  • If a bear finds your kill site, do not try to chase it away. Leave the area immediately and contact your nearest Fish and Wildlife office (call 310-0000 for the telephone number) or call the Report a Poacher line (1-800-642-3800).
  • Be very cautious when handling a harvested animal. Remove carcasses quickly.
  • When returning to the kill site, use binoculars to view the site before going near, approach from upwind and make a lot of noise.
  • If you return to your kill site and find the carcass partly consumed, leave the area immediately. In your absence, a bear may have claimed your kill and will likely be eager to defend it.

At your camp:

  • Do not drag the carcass back to your camp. This creates a scent trail that the bear can follow back to you, your hunting group and the carcass.
  • Do not store carcasses, or any other food, toiletries or garbage within 100 m of your campsite.
  • Store your garbage in airtight containers and pack it out.
  • Do not burn or bury food scraps. Bears have an acute sense of smell and will search out the source of lingering food odours.
  • Be sure to remove any articles of clothing worn while hunting or preparing food and store them at least 100 m away from the campsite.

Related Information

This article originally appeared in the September-October 2012 issue of Bugle, the bimonthly magazine of the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and is reprinted here courtesy of Christine Paige and RMEF.

Updated: Oct 4, 2012