You Are in Black Bear Country
As a national park visitor, you share this natural area with bears and other wildlife that depend on it for their survival. Although bears are naturally wary of humans, they are unpredictable. By increasing your knowledge of bear behaviour, you can help reduce the likelihood of an unpleasant encounter, and at the same time, help protect the black bear population.
With your cooperation, bears and people can co-exist. The information on this page will help protect both yourself and the black bears in Prince Albert National Park.
- Why bears behave the way they do
- Avoiding a Bear Encounter
- Reduce bear attractants
- Handling a Bear Encounter
- Handling a Bear Attack
Why bears behave the way they do
Remember to give the bear plenty of room as bears generally prefer to avoid people. A bear’s natural avoidance behaviour can shift to aggression because of the following factors:
- You surprise them.
- They are protecting young.
- They are protecting a food source.
- Your dog provokes a negative encounter.
- The bear has lost its natural fear of humans.
- The bear feels trapped.
Bears might appear to be slow moving or unconcerned with your presence but they can be unpredictable and potentially dangerous. Be aware of your surroundings. Take responsibility for your safety and actions. Black bears can run at speeds up to 50 km/hr.
Avoiding a Bear Encounter
Never approach bears. Give wildlife space.
Stay back at least 100m distance if you see a bear.
Travel as part of a group if possible and keep children close by.
Make noise! Let bears know you’re there. Call out, clap hands, sing or talk loudly – especially near streams, dense vegetation and berry patches or on windy days and in areas of low visibility. Some research shows bear bells are not enough.
Watch for bear sign including tracks, droppings, digging, and torn-up logs. Leave the area if the signs are fresh.
Keep your dog on a leash at all times. Dogs can provoke defensive behaviour in bears and other wildlife.
If you come across any dead animals, leave the area immediately and report it to park staff.
For the safety of everyone, obey all area closures.
Cyclists & Trail Runners
Your speed and quietness put you at risk for sudden encounters with bears. Make noise, stay alert and slow down.
Reduce bear attractants
Bears thrive best on natural foods, but they will take advantage of an easy meal. You would be surprised what items might attract bears:
- Birdseed and peanuts (including hummingbird feeders)
- Human food, dishes, pots, pans
- Pets and pet food
- Recycling (even containers and bottles that have been rinsed)
- Toiletries and cosmetics
- Keep yourself and your campsite odour free. Keep sleeping bags, tents, and sleeping clothes free of food, all toiletries, food odours and beverages. Store items with strong odours in vehicle, designated food storage lockers or elevated food caches.
- Store food, pet food, livestock feed and garbage away from your tent in a bear proof place (vehicle, hard-sided trailer, food lockers, back country elevated food caches). For additional resources: AdventureSmart.ca
- Wash and store all dishes and food utensils immediately after use. Dump strained dish water in designated areas (front country: sewer site or washroom toilets; back country camping: pit toilets). Dispose of strained solids in garbage.
- Where pit toilets are not provided, grey water and human waste must be buried at least 70m from any trail or camping area. Toilet paper must be packed out.
- Pack out garbage – do not burn or bury it. Store your garbage the same as food.
- Dispose of fish offal in the deep part of a lake, never along stream sides or lake shores. In the front country, use fish cleaning shacks and containers.
In the townsite of Waskesiu:
- Store garbage/recycling, food, pet food and any items with strong odours in secure bear proof areas.
- Make use of available bear proof garbage and recycling bins.
- Use birdhouses and bird baths in place of bird feeders.
- Thoroughly clean barbeques after each use.
Handling a Bear Encounter
- Stay calm and don’t alarm the bear with loud noises or sudden movement. Remain still and stand your ground while you assess the situation. Bears may show stress by ‘woofing’, growling, and snapping their jaws. Bears may bluff charge. It’s difficult, but important to remain calm if a bear reacts to you this way.
- Speak to the bear. Let the bear hear your voice. Talk calmly and firmly. This lets the bear know you are human, and not a prey animal. If a bear rears on its hind legs and waves its nose about, it is trying to identify you.
- Back away slowly, never run. If a bear charges, stand your ground as it may be a bluff charge. You can’t outrun a bear.
- Make yourself less vulnerable – pick up small children and stay in a group.
- Don’t drop your backpack. It can provide protection in the event of an attack.
- Leave the area or take a detour. If this is impossible, wait until the bear moves away. Always leave the bear an escape route.
Research shows that bear spray can be an effective tool in deterring a black bear attack. Know how to use it and keep it handy.
Handling a Bear Attack
Defensive bear attack
The bear was surprised by you and/or is protecting food or young. The bear perceives you as a threat. Use bear spray.
Play dead if the bear makes contact with you.
Lie on your stomach with your arms over the back of your neck and legs apart to avoid being flipped over. Remain still until you are sure the bear has left the area. If the attack continues, the bear may have become predatory.
Predatory bear attack
The bear is stalking or hunting you along the trail then attacks. Or it attacks you at night.
If the bear is stalking you, don't play dead.
Try to escape into a building or a car.
If you can’t escape, use bear spray, shout and fight back using whatever tools are at hand (branch, rock, your camping gear). Let the bear know you are not easy prey.