What do sticking your finger into a live light socket, jumping off a cliff into a pool of water below – when you don’t have a clue how deep the water is – and getting out of your car to take photographs of a bear at the side of the road all have in common?
If nothing else, all three situations go a long way to prove Darwin’s theory regarding evolution and survival of the fittest.
The other day I saw two out-of-province cars stopped at the side of the highway. I slowed down to see if there was a problem or if someone was in need of assistance. What I saw was two people taking photographs of a young bear not 20 feet from their vehicles. ‘Idiots’ I thought to myself as I drove away. In hindsight, I should have stopped and cautioned them about their folly. In fact, it is against the law to stop and feed wild animals – especially large carnivores such as bears.
Inadvertently coming across a bear on the trail is one thing, but getting out of your vehicle to take photographs of a bear is another. Besides putting themselves and others in the cars in danger, not to mention proving Darwin’s theory – they were also contributing to the dependence of bears on easy, roadside service of food. Also known as bear conditioning and habituation.
This altering of bear behavior, combined with a loss of fear of humans through repeated contact, more often than not results in potentially dangerous, if not disastrous bear-human contact and conflict situations. Bears pretty well always come out the losers in such situations.
The most effective way to prevent a bear-human contact situation is to obviously simply stay away from bears. A more practical way, one which also allows you to enjoy your time spent in the great outdoors, is to become ‘bear aware’ by learning about bears, their habits and the habitat in which they live. Always keep in mind that when you enter certain areas, you are entering ‘their’ territory, and that bears are territorial. They will protect their food source from other bears, as well as any other perceived threat to their food and/or well-being. This protectionism policy is even greater when a sow feels the need to protect her young.
Bears are large, strong, fast and dangerous. They are also unpredictable and tend to become more brazen when they are hungry – especially when first coming out of hibernation, or when they have become starved because natural food sources are limited or no longer available.
While there may be little food value in garbage, it is nevertheless food, and a hungry bear will do virtually anything to get at something to eat. Too many bear-human contact situations arise from people unwittingly attracting bears into their yards and/or campsites with food and garbage left lying around.
When camping, put away or remove any food that might attract bears. Store food away from your tent or trailer. If you do end up confronting a bear on the trail, in camp or even in your yard at home, remain calm, and by all means keep away from the bear. Never approach or attempt to chase a bear, as bears can move very quickly.
Once the bear has left the area, check to ensure there are no attractants that will draw it back. It is even, more often than not, wise to leave the area yourself as soon as possible and find another spot to camp in a different area.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a word to the wise, and a little common sense, will go a long way in preventing and averting bear-human contacts and conflicts.