If I had a dollar for every time I got asked ‘Are there bears in Kananaskis’, I would have a lot of dollars. The follow up question is usually ‘should I carry bear spray?’
Lets look at a helpful infographic:
The follow-follow up question is usually ‘But are there actually bears?’ Yes. There are actually bears in the Kananaskis area. Bears can be found everywhere in the Rockies, to be precise. Should you live in fear of bears? Heck no! There is no point in being afraid of bears, what everyone really needs is to be educated about bears, and bear safety. Carry bear spray and know how to use it. When you are buying it, the place selling it should give you a full demo on how to use it.If not, ask someone who is familiar with it. I will happily teach anyone I meet how to use bear spray so that they feel comfortable carrying it, and therefore comfortable in bear country.
Top things to remember in Bear Country:
-Do not leave food/attractants laying around. This includes things like soap, shampoo, petroleum products, alcohol, packaged food, pet food, etc.
-Do not feed ANY wildlife. Those cute squirrels or chipmunks that take food from your hand? They’re not eating all of it, they are caching it. That means they are burying it around your campsite or picnic area. Buried food attracts bears.
-Do not approach bears intentionally; do not try to pet them, ride them or feed them. You heard me, don’t ride the bears (I saw this attempted when I was a park ranger.).
-Make noise when you hike, this way you won’t surprise wildlife on the trail. Most animals really don’t want to see us, we just surprise them when we move quietly through the woods and they are bound to react defensively. Think about times when someone jumped out at you.
-Give wildlife its space, especially bears. Its better to have to backtrack on a trail then to risk it and skirt too close to a bear.
Am I afraid of bears? No. Do I respect them? Yes! In my 8ish years working as a park ranger and now a guide, I have had to spray two bears. I have seen a lot of bears that saw me, and then moved off. Or I moved off. I actually love bears. I think they are beautiful and incredible animals who deserve to be respected.
Things you probably didn’t know about bears:
-Bears are not true hibernators. They go into something called torpor, where they can wake up if disturbed or if weather conditions change.
-Female bears give birth in January to cubs the size of a lb of butter.
-Bears will occasionally make ‘nests’. They will climb a tree and pick branches to eat the fresh shoots on the end and then they will drop the branches and they will collect in the tree, creating what appears to be a very large nest.
Bears are beautiful animals; here are some bear photos that I have snapped over the last couple of weeks.
The last couple photos were taken on my phone since I saw 7 bears on the one night I didn’t have my DSLR.
When you live out here, you see some of the same bears on a pretty regular basis; you honestly start to love them and love seeing them. You get to watch cubs grow up, bears flirting during mating season and bears fattening up during the fall. You eagerly await seeing the first bear of spring, since that means spring is really here.
What I want people to take away from this is that bears are incredible creatures that have a place here. This is their home that we are visiting and if we all follow some basic guidelines, we can live and play in bear country without being afraid.