Things to Know About Whistler's Bears
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.
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!!
Bear Rules- 05/
Try to scare them away
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 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/
Make noise on the trail to avoid surprising a bear. Keep ALL food, garbage, dirty camping stoves, toiletries (including facewipes, toothpaste etc) and any other smelly items locked away in a metal bear-proof container provided in a park, your car or hung from a tree away from your campsite. 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.