Be Bear Aware

Recreating Safely in Natural Bear Habitats

British Columbia’s backcountry offers several incredible attributes, from stunning landscapes and unspoiled alpine views to solitude and integration with nature. Another awe-inspiring offering provided by the backcountry is the extensive wildlife that you may encounter along the way; perhaps viewing wildlife – safely and responsibly – is even the reason you choose to visit the backcountry.

BC is home to both black (in coastal areas the Kermode bear, a rare, white-coated black bear) and grizzly bears with the province’s varied landscape providing the ideal habitat for both species. While black bears tend to prefer extensively wooded areas, lowlands and wetlands, grizzlies tend to occupy a greater range of habitats including tundra plains, prairie and grasslands, and of course, the thick temperate rainforests of coastal BC. The two species can however – and do – overlap habitats.

As humans recreating in natural bear habitats, it’s our responsibility to be mindful of bear habits and activity, taking every precaution in order to prevent and reduce human-bear conflict. Most bear encounters occur in the warmer months of the year (March through November) when the number of outdoor recreationalists is higher, leading to an increased chance of an encounter.

The late summer and autumn is a key time for bear activity in the backcountry: bears enter a state of hyperphagia – an extreme appetite which increases their feeding activity – driven by their biological need to fatten up prior to hibernation. Though the onset and duration of this hyperphagia state differs based on the regional norms of food availability which can vary. During hyperphagia, bears can feed upwards of 20 hours each day to prepare for a winter of hibernation. As a result of this, they can become temperamental and defensive if they perceive a threat to a potential meal source.

Before embarking on any adventure into the wilderness – and into bear habitat – prepare yourself by learning about bears, their behaviours, and how to avoid conflicts and stay safe while recreating in BC. (Consider taking WildSafeBC’s Bear Safety When Recreating course to learn more.)

While you’re out in the backcountry, be alert and watch for bears or bear activity including their tracks and scat, strange smells or disturbed vegetation nearby. Alert potential bears to your presence by making noise: singing, talking calmly and loudly, or clapping, especially near streams and areas of low visibility. Hike and bike in groups and don’t let children wander; larger groups of 4 or more are less likely to have a negative encounter with a bear. Always keep pets on-leash, as dogs can provoke defensive bear behaviour. And of course, always be prepared with bear spray and know how to use it effectively.

When camping outdoors, store bear attractants – such as food (both human and pet), garbage, recyclables, toiletries, and other smelly items – in a bear-safe manner, see what WildSafeBC advises about this. Utilize bear-proof food storage lockers when provided or bring your own bear-proof containers and hang food from a rope system or tree branch in an area inaccessible to bears (at least four metres off the ground and three metres from the nearest tree.)

It’s crucial for us to respect the fact that the backcountry is home to bears and as visitors in their areas, we must do our part to conserve bears and their natural environment. To learn more on

bear safety and what to do if you encounter a bear or if a bear approaches or charges you, please visit the following resources:

BC Parks

WildSafeBC

AdventureSmart

Commercial Bear Viewing Association

Bear Smart – BC Government

Wildfire Safety

Recreating Responsibly in the Backcountry During Fire Season

On July 20th, 2021, the B.C. Government declared a provincial state of emergency in response to the ongoing wildfire situation. The declaration, made by Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Mike Farnworth, came into effect on July 21st, 2021, upon the recommendation from the BC Wildfire Service and Emergency Management BC.

The state of emergency is in effect for 14 days, though it may be extended or rescinded as necessary; applies to the whole province and ensures federal, provincial, and local resources can be delivered in a coordinated response to protect the public.

With that, the public is being asked to be mindful of the needs of B.C.’s wildfire response through careful and considerate trip planning when hiking and recreating in the backcountry. Aside from diligently working to suppress wildfires across the province, BC Wildfire Service has also been involved in a number of coordinated rescues of hikers. Such rescue calls require the diversion of helicopters from the fire line and may detract from the efforts of supressing wildfires.

So how can you play your part? Responsible use of the backcountry is critical.

  1. Brush up on your knowledge and skills to make informed decisions when enjoying the outdoors.
  2. Utilize online tools such as FireSmoke Canada, BC Wildfire Dashboard and PurpleAir – Air Quality Monitoring in order to help you make informed and up-to-date decisions on your travel plans.
  3. Plan your trip well in advance, ensuring you’re up-to-date with the latest wildfire information and wildfire evacuation orders, along with park closures and road closures or detours along your route.
  4. Prepare an emergency plan and put together an emergency kit in the event you encounter a disaster.
  5. Be sure that your travel plans or recreation activities are not interfering in any manner with wildfire mitigation efforts. There have been reports of drones been flown near aircraft, forcing water bombers to be grounded. People have also been recreating on water bodies, hampering aircraft’s ability to pick-up water. Don’t be one of these people, be aware of your proximity to wildfires.
  6. If you see a wildfire while you’re recreating, report it by dialing *5555 on a cellphone or calling 1-800-663-5555. A small fire can quickly become a serious wildfire; your call matters.

Nature has been there for us throughout the pandemic. Now we need to be there for nature.

Blue Mind

The Benefits of Being Near, In, or On Water

There’s something about a body of water that pulls us in. We are drawn to lakes, rivers, and oceans – especially in these warm, sunny months, eager for a paddle or SUP atop glassy waters or to plunge in and cool off after a rewarding hike. Our natural waterways provide us with recreation and adventure, but they also give us so much more that: inspiration and creativity, along with a sense of peace and calm.

Marine biologist and author Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, dubbed the term “blue mind”, describing it as, “the mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment.”

“We are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water,” writes Dr. Nichols in his book, aptly titled Blue Mind. “Being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and even heal what’s broken.”

Simply being by water – whether an open ocean, a sprawling lake, a trickling stream, or even a bath at home – has therapeutic properties. According to neuroscientists and psychologists, the ocean and other natural waterways provide vast cognitive, emotional, physical, psychological, social, and spiritual values. Water is a source of happiness, relaxation, play, nostalgia, and wonder. It has also been said to help manage anxiety, trauma, stress, sleep and attention disorders (to name a few.)

We understand that chronic stress and anxiety can cause or intensify a range of physical and mental afflictions; being near, in, or on water can be an effective means of reducing stress and anxiety levels – meaning, time in nature by water might be just what the doctor ordered. 

Aside from the cognitive and physical benefits, being near water has been proven to saturate the senses. “Here, the auditory, visual, and somatic processing is simplified,” writes Dr. Nichols.

Focus on the sensory experience the next time you’re near a water source. Take in the sights, observing the shifting swells and noting the difference of hues from moody indigos to vibrant ceruleans. Inhale the scent of the sea breeze, rich with brine and seaweed. Listen to the sound of a stream that trickles quietly and gently or the rush of a fast-flowing river. Feel the shockingly cold chill of a glacier-fed lake as you dip your toes. Taste the saltwater on your lips after a deep dive into the ocean. Tuning into the senses of the experience can presence you to the moment.

Blue mind is something that can benefit everyone, so much so that it has become synonymous with well-being. And so, as Dr. Nichols says, “I wish you water.”