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BEARS

How to live alongside our furry neighbours.

Welcome to Whistler, home of world-class skiing, epic mountain biking, and two species of bear. Living here means living in harmony with wildlife. It’s not uncommon to see a bear in your yard or on one of Whistler’s many trails. We love our bears (both black and grizzly) and as a Whistler resident (temporary or permanent!) it is our shared responsibility to reduce human-bear conflicts. Since most people that move here haven't grown up in bear country, we've put together a guide to help understand bear behaviour and build up your natural reaction to them. Being informed, aware and prepared when spring rolls around can help prevent dangerous situations for humans and bears alike.

QUICK

  • While called black bears, these animals come in a variety of colours.

  • Whistler's black bears are wild animals, and should be treated as such. 

  • Bears have eyesight and hearing as good as or better than that of humans. A bear's sense of smell is 7 times more powerful than a bloodhound's. 

  • Our bears are especially sensitive during spring and fall when eating is their priority. 

  • Bears are omnivorous animals with vegetation making up about 80% of their diet and the remainder coming from small animals.

  • The best thing you can do for bears and yourselves is take some time to learn about how to stay safe in bear country. 

Photo credit: Michael Allen

FACTS

  • Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains are home to up to 60 black bears that live within ski area habitats. Black bears are the ones you'll find in Whistler's neighbourhoods, whereas the grizzlies stay up in the alpine.

  • Black bears are extremely fast and can run up to 50kmh/hr.

  • Whistler has a much higher concentration of mother bears and cubs than any other habitat in B.C. 

  • Bears are naturally shy and will generally avoid people.

  • The best way to prevent an unpleasant bear encounter is to avoid them all together.

  • The most important step in preventing a bear attack is to never feed a bear, accidentally or otherwise.

Photo credit: Michael Allen

Bear Rules- 01/

Never Approach A Bear.

If you see a bear, keep your distance, back away slowly and leave the area. Do not approach it, even if you want a better photo. Stay at least 100 metres away from bears at all times, and as far away as possible if you see a mother bear with cubs. A mother bear will charge to defend her cubs against any potential predators. Bears usually have no desire to interact with humans; but when you choose to enter a bear’s personal space, you force them to make a quick decision about whether they perceive you as a threat. This will trigger their fight or flight instinct. 

Bear Rules- 02/

Never Feed A Bear, accidentally or on purpose.

Bears LOVE garbage. A common saying here is “a fed bear is a dead bear.” Manage your garbage and recycling so that bears can’t access it - put it all in bear-proof containers and leave nothing outside. Never leave food, garbage or recycling in your vehicle. Bears have a very strong sense of smell and can easily break into vehicles. Clean your BBQs. Keep bird feeders and home grown plants far out of reach. Don't grow berries at home, and keep pet food inside. Keep your home free of bear attractants. And obviously, don't litter. 

Bear Rules- 03/

Stay Calm, Make Noise!

Bumping into a large bear can be a little scary, but as we've just discussed, it's important not to ever surprise or sneak up on a bear. Wearing a bear bell is a great way to alert bears to your presence from afar. If you do spot a bear at close range, the best tactic is to talk in a calm voice, and make no sudden movements. You want to slowly make the bear aware of your presence so that it chooses to move away by itself. Say in a low voice "Hey Mr Bear" and gradually increase in volume until it hears you. You want to make it aware of your presence but not scare it. 

Bear Rules- 04/

Carry Bear Spray

If you're headed into the alpine trails, carry bear spray, and know how to use it! If all else has failed, and a bear is charging you, having bear spray within easy reach should be your last line of defence. Like pepper spray, bear spray is excruciating. Neither the bear or you want to get it in the face - do not test it!! 

whister bear smart bears safety tips wildlife
whister bear smart bears safety tips wildlife

Bear Rules- 05/

What to do if a Black Bear acts agressively.

If a black bear notices you and moves closer, become firm, and start to raise your voice. If it follows you and acts aggressively, make yourself look as big as possible. Stamp your feet and brandish whatever makeshift weapon you have with you. The more the bear persists, the more aggressive your response should be. Note - this is only applicable to black bear encounters. Grizzlies are an entirely different ballgame.

Bear Rules- 06/

Don't stop on the side of the road to look at a bear.

If you see a bear while driving, slow down to pass it safely, but do not stop or impede traffic flow. 'Bear-jams' are common and extremely dangerous on the Sea to Sky. Stopping creates unsafe driving conditions and can cause stress for a bear by disrupting their eating pattern. Stopping your car for bears also teaches them that vehicles also makes them lose their fear of cars, which leads to bears being killed by vehicles each year. Never get out of you car to view a bear on the side of the road.

Bear Rules- 07/

Camp Responsibly.

You can read extensively about bear-safe camping in our Hiking 101 section, but the basics are: cook far away from your tents, store anything scented (food or toiletries) in bear safe containers or hung from a tree 4m from the ground. Dispose of dish water (grey water) far away from campsite. Leave no trace of food near your tent and pack everything out with you.

Bear Rules- 08/

Take a bear tour.

If you still desperately want to see a bear, there are ways to do it that keep both the bear and human viewer safe. For example, take a responsible bear viewing tour with local experts. Take a walk along the Valley Trail near one of the golf courses at dawn or dusk and you'll likely see bears chowing down on the skunk cabbage. For ultimate safety, gondola and chair-lift rides create a perfect bear-spotting scenario. Berry patches on Blackcomb are prime bear spotting locations, and the mountains reveal many beautiful cubs each spring.

Garbage accounts for 60% of all bear-human problem callouts. 

HIKING 101
FITNESS & YOGA