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Spending time in the Canadian backcountry provides an enthralling way to experience the splendor of the natural world that you'll remember for the rest of your life. A memory you don't want to make, however, is one that involves an unpleasant encounter with the region's black or grizzly bears. Fortunately, strategies exist to minimize chances of having that experience.
Here's what you can do to decrease the risk of bear encounters in the Canadian wilderness.
Choose Your Campsite Well
Most bears want to avoid you as much as you want to avoid them, and smart bears stay away from areas that are well-traveled by humans. Be sure to use designated campsites. Although it might be tempting to pitch a tent right next to that lush berry patch, this is a natural food source for bears and might not be the best choice. It's also a good idea to camp away from creeks and streams where bears may seek fresh water.
The presence of fresh bear scat in a place you're intending to camp is a sign to keep looking.
Store Food Safely
The average bear can smell over 2,000 times better than a human. When conditions are right, it can smell food from as far as 20 miles away. Thus, it's important to store food in a safe manner. Never keep it in your tent with you, and always maintain a clean camp. If possible, use bear-proof canisters and storage lockers, and keep them at least 55 yards from your tent.
Your food preparation area should also be 55 yards from your tent and food storage area. If these items aren't an option, hang your food from a tree high enough so it can't be reached by a bear. Heat significantly amplifies the scent of food and makes it drift much farther — so keep that in mind when cooking bacon or hot dogs over a campfire or portable barbecue.
If You Encounter a Bear
Resist the urge to run if you encounter a bear — this behavior may trigger the animal's prey drive. Experts also recommend avoiding looking the bear in the eye because bears interpret this as a challenge. Making yourself look as large as possible by spreading out your arms may intimidate the bear into leaving the area. If the bear attacks, your response should depend on the type of bear. Fight back if it's a black bear, and play dead if it's a grizzly.
Why Carry Bear Spray?
Used properly, bear spray can circumvent attacks if you're charged by a bear. It's essential to familiarize yourself with how to use a canister of bear spray. However, you won't be able to take time to figure it out during a real-life bear attack. Be sure to practice using the spray prior to your wilderness adventure.
Fortunately, most people who carry bear spray will never have an occasion to use it. Keep in mind, however, that it's better to have it with you and not need it than to not have it with you and need it.