The Bear Facts

Salt Spring Island BC - largest of the Southern Gulf Islands on Canada's west coast.
Information about Salt Spring Island, BC including accommodation and business listings

The Bear Facts

Large Black BearOnce again, bears have been spotted on Salt Spring Island. While there appears to be a great deal of hullabaloo about these sighting, it should be pointed out that for the most part, bears are more afraid of you than you are afraid of them. These magnificent creatures will usually shy away from man. The exception is if food is in short supply or if they become habituated to eating from garbage cans. They are omnivorous and will eat fruits and berries or fish and sometimes small animals. As unlikely as an attack would be, children are more at risk of being attacked by a bear because they are smaller, so they should be accompanied at all times while in bear country. The same could be said about not letting a child play around strangers unaccompanied. When their food is in short supply, you should use more caution as a hungry bear will be less timid. You definitely don't want to surprise a bear. They are a lot bigger and faster than you are and may attack if cornered. Having a dog along will obviously increase the chances of the dog ending up tangling with the bear, but it will often give you some "early warning" if your dog detects the bear's presence. While dogs may bark and circle a bear and then "call it off," one good swipe from an annoyed bear will not be very good for your dog's health.

Get Bear Aware   

Bear spotted on Salt Spring IslandYou especially don't want to get between a mother and a cub. A sow with cubs will be fiercely protective. Bears have also been hunted to the point where their numbers are very low in some parts of the province. If you want to do your part to try and live along side the bears (after all, they were here first!) there are a few things you should do. Don't leave "food" or garbage outside. Once a bear gets used to going through garbage cans for food, it will begin to lose its fear of man and the chance of a surprise encounter will rise. Keep your garbage in a secure container inside until it is time to take it out. If you are hiking, make some noise as you travel. In grizzly country, it would be prudent to tie a bell on your pack or have a "shaker" a can of pebbles to make your presence known. While grizzly bears can be extremely dangerous, black bears tend to be more timid. The old adage used to be that if you climbed a tree and the bear came up and got you, it was a black bear. Grizzly bears will just shake the tree until you fall out as they aren't very good climbers. Don't worry only black bears are occasionally visiting on Salt Spring Island! Should you have a sudden encounter, the best thing you can do is stand tall; keep children close by; slowly back away while talking in a non-threatening voice; walk don't run. Should you be attacked by a black bear, stand your ground. Yell and shout. Throw rocks or sticks at it. Keep your dog on a leash. If the bear is acting aggressively, turning the dog loose might attract enough of the bears attention for you to back away. However, this may increase the chance of your dog being injured though. If you are unlucky enough to be on the receiving end of a grizzly attack, protect your head and play dead.

This writer used to live in bear country and encounters with bears were quite common. The only time I was ever nervous around bears was when I was hurrying down a trail one day when I had gone on a "spur of the moment" day hike and not taken a headlamp with me. While trying to make time through some bush before it got too dark to see, I stumbled across a group of bears that were probably bedded down for the night. I heard them more than I saw them, and there was a great deal of crashing and banging through the trees as they scattered in all directions. I of course was very surprised and shouted at them to hasten their departure. In reply, they were all "huffing" as they ran off into the forest. I can only hope that they were as scared of me as I was of them that night.

These are my personal comments and opinions and aren't meant to be the "definitive statement" about the safety of humans around bears. Use your own judgment around bears, but give the them a chance to live here too.

Several years ago, an elk was spotted in Ruckle Park down at Beaver Point! Use caution if you should encounter one as elk can be aggressive at times.

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