Spring has sprung and that can only mean one thing in Whistler; the bears are waking from their winter slumber. According to experts, although predatory attacks on humans by bears are extremely rare, a disproportionate number of attacks by bears on humans are related to dogs. These situations are often a result of a dog running back to their owner for protection during an encounter or an owner trying to intervene in a scuffle between a bear and their dog. Bears are an inevitable part of life in Whistler so here are some tips for keeping yourself and your furry friend safe out on the trails.
- Stay alert and aware of your surroundings, keep an eye out for signs of bear activity such as scratches on the ground or trees and feces
- Attach a bear bell to you and your pooch (this will alert any bears in the area of your presence and reduce the chance of you starling them)
- Avoid hiking at dawn and dusk which are opportune feeding times for bears
- Avoid any areas where there was recent wildlife activity or encounters
- Take caution when running or biking with your dog as faster movements increase the likelihood of you startling a bear
- Take a wildlife safety/awareness course online
- Carry an air horn to deter an approaching bear in the event of an encounter
- Carry bear spray, have it accessible, and know how to use it!
- Develop a reliable recall with your dog so if you do encounter a bear, you are confident that you can call them back to you!
When encountering wildlife, always be prepared for your dog to exhibit unpredictable behaviours. Any dog with a consistent, reliable recall may still choose to ignore you when faced with a bear. The safest option (as always) is to keep your dog leashed. Long lines are a great option to allow your dog freedom with less compromise to safety during bear season. Prevent, prepare and get out there and enjoy the lush spring trails!