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Preparedness, awareness, education key to bear safety: Expert

In some areas of the province, there have already been reports of bear sightings, with officials saying mid-March is around the time bears can start to emerge from hibernation. Those planning to take advantage of the warmer weather by exploring the outdoors are reminded to be “Bear Aware.”

Owner of Bear Safety & More Kim Titchener says the best tool you can use is your voice. She explains when you go into bear or carnivore country the best thing you can do is communicate you are in the area and heading in their direction.

“It gives them an opportunity to go, okay that’s people, I got to get off this trail, I got to get my cubs off this trail away from that berry patch and avoid getting into this encounter,” Titchener says. “Unfortunately in a lot of cases where we see people get themselves into negative encounters with wildlife is because they weren’t making noise.”

She adds bears are always on guard and using their senses, not only for their prey species but also for other predators who can hurt them, so by making noise you are limiting the chance of having an unexpected encounter. Another tool Titchener advises to have on as a tool to use before a bear attacks if you find yourself in that kind of situation is bear spray. She explains the idea is if you do surprise a bear and it becomes defensive or if a bear is stalking you in a predatory manner you can spray them to stop them from attacking.

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“Your other options if you don’t carry bear spray is to lie down and play dead if they are defensive, or fight back if they are predatory. Neither one of these options is awesome because they involve you either getting mauled or killed.”

According to Titchener, a study was done in Alaska which looked at 72 cases where people were able to avoid a bear attack using the spray, with the bears ranging from black bears to polar bears, with 98 per cent of those in the study walking away without injury, with only a few needing medical attention from getting bear spray on them due to blowback.

She reiterates the keys to going out into bear country, or even living in an area or community where bears are known to roam is to travel in groups of four or more and make noise, to not only have bear spray but have it physically on you where it is easily accessible, and to make sure if you are out with a dog to have them on a leash, as Titchener says unintentionally a loose dog can seem like a threat to a bear.

She also advises people to take advantage of any bear safety education opportunities in their area, explaining educating and preparing yourself for bear safety in the spring and summer is no different than preparing yourself to explore avalanche country in the winter.

“If you got the skill sets, if you got the right tools, you can get out there and enjoy nature and if something bad happens you got the right equipment you’re prepared and you can deal with what’s in front of you,” Titchener says.

More bear safety information and tips can be found here.

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