When bears emerge from hibernation in the spring, eating is their number one priority. When bears hibernate, they lose up to 30% of their body weight so in the spring they wake up very hungry. It’s important for field workers to be aware of bear feeding patterns so that they can try and avoid getting between a bear and its food.
In the spring, bears are mostly looking for roots, shrubs, berries, whereas in the fall, bears are more likely to be found near water looking for salmon to provide them with the calories and fat they need for hibernation.
Bears coming out of hibernation may be more visible and aggressive as they search for food. If they emerge early from hibernation or if their normal foods are less available, they will come looking for things like human garbage. It’s important that everyone does their part to eliminate bear attractant and properly dispose of all food waste on work sites or in the bush.
To avoid a bear encounter you also want to make plenty of noise while working and be aware of your surroundings. Walk loudly in the bush and talk or sing often. If you’re working in a highly forested area or around creeks, frequently scan your surroundings.
If you encounter a bear:
– Back away slowly and quietly if the bear does not acknowledge you.
– If the bear sees you, speak calmly and back away slowly – do not run.
– If the bear moves towards you, make yourself as large as possible, wave your arms or an object, and make a lot of noise.
– Do not stare directly into the bear’s eyes
– If the bear attacks you, fight back if it’s a black bear, and play dead if it’s a grizzly
The best preparation to protect yourself against a bear encounter is to check for wildlife activity ahead of starting work in the area by contacting local fish and wildlife officers. Other things you can do to equip yourself include:
– Take a bear/wildlife safety course.
– Have equipment like bear spray and bangers that are designed to scare off bears and understand how to properly store and use them.
– Carry a firearm in high risk areas if licensed to do so.
– Know who to call for help.
– Carry a cell phone or communication radio that works in the area.
– Store food and garbage in airtight containers.