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Bear Smart

Common Ucluelet Black Bear

Viewing and the opportunity to photograph bears can be an exciting and rewarding experience. By following a proper set of rules these experiences can be enjoyed safely with minimum impact on the animals themselves.

• PLEASE DO NOT stop your vehicle in an unsafe manner or get out of your vehicle to view road side bears. This puts your self, other motorists and the bears at risk of vehicle collisions that may result in injuries/fatalities. Bears may also become habituated to human presence leading to the increased probability of damage to personal property, risk to human safety and the eventual development of a problem bear that may be destroyed.

• PLEASE DO NOT attempt to feed or lure bears closer to you with food. Feeding bears in British Columbia is illegal yielding fines of up to $50,000!

Bears need personal space as much as we do. Recent research by Herrero (2005) shows that each bear has its own limits of tolerance also referred to as “Overt Reaction Distance” (ORD). This distance can be affected by several factors.

1. Bear Related Factors: species, age, sex, status in hierarchy, previous experience with humans, population density, mood, expectations, level of habituation and individuality.

2. Environmental Factors: Human-Bear encounter circumstances, quantity and quality of food sources, season of year, time of day, habitat and terrain and visibility.

3. Human Related Factors: Person’s activity at time of encounter, group size, person’s behaviour towards bear and possession of deterrents.

“Observed behaviours when a bear’s Overt Reaction Distance has been compromised are often stress-related and may include actions such as change in body position, yawning, salivating, bear staring at a person, huffing, lip popping, loud vocalizations (just prior to or during attack), and moving away (fleeing) or toward (charging), with the extreme being rare instances of attack. An animal may not react overtly to a stimulus but may react internally.” (Herrero et al, 2005). By approaching a bear it may become unduly stressed even though it does not appear to be affected by the presence of a human(s). There is no way to accurately guess the personal space of a bear. Maintain a distance of at least 30-100 metres or about the length of a football field. Invest in a spotting scope and/or zoom lens for your camera. PLEASE DO NOT harass bears or interfere with their natural behaviour.

To responsibly view bears, consider wildlife tours that promote bear conservation and respect for their natural environment. For a list of tour operators the local Visitor’s Centre will be more than happy to help. Not only will you be assured a safe viewing adventure but you will also be supporting local economy.

Ultimately, bears deserve our respect. By acknowledging that we are guests in their environment to observe and not interfere, bear populations can thrive in their natural habitat. Maintaining this healthy attitude towards bears can reduce the risk of bear-human conflict as well as the need to manage such conflicts. Make your next bear viewing encounter a safe and memorable one!

To report any wildlife-human interactions where public safety may be at risk, call the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-RAPP (7277).

Information provided by Christina Brack, Director of Communications Bear Smart BC Society and Crystal McMillan, Executive Director Bear Smart BC Society

For more “Bear Smart” information, questions, concerns or to volunteer please contact:
Dawn Boyce 250-723-2187 or Christina Brack 250-723-9200

For more information on the Ministry of Environment Bear Smart Community Program or the Bear Smart BC Society please call: Crystal McMillan at 250-650-9653