Bear Facts & Bear Safety Tips

bear facts brown bear photos

Bears in the Okanagan BC?

Yes, there are a few here and there. So, here are some quick bear facts about grizzly bears and black bears, and safety tips for exploring the Okanagan backcountry, hiking trails, wilderness, campgrounds and residential areas.

Bears are extremely beautiful, yet powerful and very unpredictable animals. They are indigenous animals of British Columbia. Black bears can be found throughout the entire province of BC, including the Okanagan and Shuswap regions.

Grizzly bears (also known as brown bears), are one of the largest North American land mammals, and may be found everywhere in British Columbia except on Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Islands, and you are more likely to see one in the northern Interior.

Bear facts #1

Bears are large, strong Omnivores; animals that eat both meat and plants.

They are strong enough to mangle cars and shred tents in search of something to eat. All bears are dangerous, and habituated bears are especially dangerous.

black bear cubs and mother bear facts

Bear facts #2

Bears, by nature, are solitary and quite docile animals.

They are very smart, genereally shy and are very good at hiding when they need to.

Although they can be frightening most bears will only become aggressive when they feel threatened or when their babies are threatened.

Bear facts #3

A bears habitat ranges from the snowy northern tundra to dense rainforests and high mountains. Most species of bears live to around 25 years of age.

Bear facts #4

Bears have an acute sense of smell and hearing. They also have very good eyesight. These senses are very important to a bears survival. A bear can smell food, cubs, a mate or danger from miles away! They are also very strong swimmers.

Bear facts #5

Actually a bear facts misconception....Despite common belief, bears can run downhill very easily. Black bears and young grizzly bears can climb trees. Mature grizzlies are poor climbers, but have a reach of up to four metres.

Bear facts #6

Black bears are not true hibernators. During their winter dormant period, though, they do not eat, drink, urinate, or defecate, but may wake up if disturbed.

gtizzly bear pics bear facts

The Difference Between A Brown Bear (Grizzly Bear) And A Black Bear

The main differences between the black bear and brown bear, is that the brown bear has a rather concave face, high-humped shoulders, and long, curved claws.

This grizzly's thick fur, which varies from light brown to nearly black, sometimes looks frosty, lending to the name "grizzly," or the less commonly "silvertip". A grizzly bear also has more rounded, shorter ears like the one you see here.

gtizzly bear pics bear facts

Black bears, like this one on the left, are usually black, with a lighter-coloured muzzle and a straighter profile.

Their ears are large relative to the size of the head. Black bear claws are short and highly curved.

Most adult black bears range from 70 kg to 150 kg. Mother black bears are notoriously protective of their cubs, who stay with their mothers for about two years.

When traveling in bear habitat consider whether a bear could perceive your presence soon enough to avoid an encounter.

A surprised bear can be aggressive especially if it is feeding or protecting cubs. In the vast majority of instances, a bear that picks up on the approach of a person melts away into the bush. We can never really know how often we have passed such a bear with out realizing it.

Bear Facts About Habituated Bears

Your actions in the wilderness affects the safety not only of yourself, but of future visitors to this region and the wildlife that makes the Okanagan their home.

bear facts habituated bear grizzly bear photos

Habituated bears are food conditioned, meaning that they lose their natural fear of humans from scavening garbage or unattended food on picnic tables, in campsites, residential and forest areas.

Consider this:

A FED BEAR IS A DEAD BEAR

These bears have become accustomed to finding food, and an easy meal in human populated areas and become unpredictable and potentially dangerous.

There is little or no chance of correcting a food-conditioned bear and BC Park Rangers are forced to destroy them when they become aggressive towards humans.

It's vital to the life and safety of a bear, and human beings, to be extremely diligent about not being responsible for habituating a bear or it's cubs.

Bear Safety Tips

There are many things you can do in your campsite and on hiking and biking trails to reduce your risk of encountering a bear, and putting yourself and wildlife at risk.

bear facts picture of black bear tracks

Keep a clean camp, never bury food or garbage. Bears can and will dig for food. If you're fishing, use a fish cleaning station away from your campsite, and cook and eat food away from your tent. Bears are strongly attracted to fish odour. Never leave cooking utensils, coolers, grease or dishwater lying around a campsite. If you're camping in back country, hang food higher than 4 meters up a tree, where a grizzly bear can't reach it.

Avoid walking or hiking at night when wildlife animals are more active. When hiking during the day, go as a group.

Keep pets leashed or leave them at home. Pets can make a bear angry and provoke an attack. A bear may also chase a pet back to a campsite.

Mind posted park warnings, stay on designated trails and comply with posted bear warning.

Stay clear of any dead animals. Bears feed on dead animals. Crows circling in the sky is an indication of carrion (a dead animal carcass) in the area. Remember that bears have a keen sense of smell and may be nearby.

bear facts picture grizzly bear tracks

Watch for bear signs including tracks, droppings, recently overturned rocks or logs, rotted wood that has been torn apart, clawed, bitten or rubbed trees, bear trails, bear hair on tree bark, fresh diggings and crushed vegetation. If you observe any of these signs, leave the area immediately.

If You Encounter A Bear

Because black bears and grizzlies behave differently, your reaction to a bear encounter will depend on knowing the species.

Always stay calm and keep the bear in view. Avoid direct eye contact, as a bear may see this as aggression and could attack.

Never try to out run a bear. Bears are as fast as racehorses. The bear will win.

If the bear is standing up on its hind legs, it may be trying to pick up your scent to identify you. Talk softly to the bear as you continue to back away, Always keeping the animal in view.

If the bear acts aggressively, try to determine it's intent. A bear may act defensively if it is startled, or if it is protecting cubs, territory or food. Aggressive behaviour includes jaw snapping, head lowering, ear flattening, woofing sounds and growling. Wave your arms, talk in low tones and back away slowly.

Signs of predatory behaviour include following you, showing interest and unprovoked attacks. Remember that black bears and small grizzlies can climb trees, so stay on the ground. Try to look as large as possible. Never play dead - it makes you easier prey.

If a mature grizzly bear shows signs of an attack, climb a tree above 4 meters. If you cannot escape lie on the ground in a fetal position on your side, with your knees against your chest and your head between your knees. Clasp your hands behind your neck. This position will show the bear that you are not aggressive, and will protect your vital organs in case of an attack.

Though bear facts and safety are important to know, don't let this stop you from exploring the beautiful Okanagan!


Dangerous sightings of bears can be reported to the Conservation Officer Service call centre at 1-877-952-RAPP(7277), or #7277 on the TELUS Mobility Network.

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Authored By: Erika Friedrich Copyright© 2008-2016 OkanaganVacationGuide.com All Rights Reserved