iN VIDEO: If you run into one of B.C.'s black bears while hiking, do you know what to do? - InfoNews

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iN VIDEO: If you run into one of B.C.'s black bears while hiking, do you know what to do?

FILE PHOTO- A black bear eyes up apples in a residential neighbourhood.
July 02, 2020 - 7:01 AM

With recent bear sightings around the Okanagan, a WildSafeBC expert is offering some advice on what to do on a chance encounter.

First thing is first — avoidance. Meg Bjordal, WildSafeBC Westside co-ordinator, said to always hike in a group and to make noise. That in itself will limit interaction.

The human voice is more effective than a bear bell, as it travels farther and is more distinctive, so she recommends that hikers keep up conversations as their walks progress.

READ MORE: How Kelowna got its name from 'grizzly bear', despite a distinct lack of grizzlies around

Most bears have a natural wariness of humans, so if a bear hears you, it’ll likely avoid you, she said. 

Keeping dogs on a leash is another way to avoid a surprise encounter, Bjordal said.

But what if you do come across a bear? Don’t run, Bjordal said, as that may encourage them to chase.

“Stop, stay calm and assess the situation,” she said. “That’s true for any wildlife you might encounter, don’t run away.”

Talk to the bear in a calm voice, and keep space between yourself and the animal. Back away slowly and don’t show signs of aggression. Ensure the bear has an escape route, she said.

If you surprise a bear, it may display defensive behaviour, such as vocalizing, stomping its feet, popping its jaws and may even bluff a charge, she said.

Stand your ground if that’s the case, she said.

She recommends that everyone carries bear spray with them and that they know how to use it, even if it’s on a short busy trail.

“Bear spray has shown to be effective in well over 90 per cent of bear encounters,” she said.

Tutorials on how to use it are available online through WildSafeBC, she said.

On Monday, June 29, the District of Lake Country warned of a black bear and her three cubs that were spotted on the Rail Trail.

There’s also been an unusual number of black bear sightings reported in the West Kelowna area within the last few months, and the City of West Kelowna has issued bear alerts for trails in the area.

READ MORE: Huge spike in bear sightings reported in West Kelowna area

Conservation officers have also been ramping up their enforcement efforts in the last few months in order to prevent human and bear encounters.

For more information on bears and to learn about bear spray, visit WildSafeBC’s website. 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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