Bear Safety When Hiking

Bear safety when hiking in the Canadian Rockies is very important. The Canadian Rockies are home to modest populations of black and grizzly bears. Almost every year, at least one hiker has a bear encounter somewhere in the Canadian Rockies, usually with grizzlies and more rarely with black bears. But when you consider the tens of thousands of people who hike the trails each summer, these incidents are extremely rare.

Yet it is always a good idea to be prepared for an unexpected bear encounter and, even more importantly, to follow a few basic rules to avoid the encounter in the first place:

  • Check trail reports park visitor centres for a listing of trails where bears have been sighted.
  • Read any warning or closure signs at the trailhead.
  • Watch for bear sign, such as fresh droppings, diggings or tracks. If you come across an animal carcass, leave the area immediately.
  • Always stay alert. You don’t want to come upon a bear suddenly at close range. You should continually scan your surroundings, and peruse the slopes and valley ahead before descending from a pass or ridge.
  • Make noise in areas where bears have been seen or any prime bear habitat where visibility is limited. The occasional loud shout or whistle will alert bears to your presence. Talking loudly or singing can also be effective.
  • Groups of four or more hikers have far less chance of being charged or attacked.
  • If you do see a bear, stop immediately and retreat slowly from the area.
  • Carry bear spray, preferably more than one can per party.

Be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Further Reading About Bears

Many books about bears are available, including some dedicated to bears in the Canadian Rockies. Please go to our Books About Bears page.

Guidebook author Brian Patton writes about his experiences with bears on this page Bears in the Canadian Rockies.