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Ergaki Nature Park

How to travel safely in bearcountry

     The brown bears are the most numerous large carnivore in the Park with around 450 individuals. Bears are active during twilight but can also be seen searching for food during the day. Hibernation lasts from around November to April. Despite their enormous size and awkward look brown bears can be extremely fast running at speed of up to 50 km/h. They are excellent swimmers. Brown bears can climb trees to eat or escape predators, but only when they are cubs!

     Bears can live up to 25 years in the wild. Unfortunately, many die human-caused deaths well before this, cutting short their legacy of future offspring.

     Bear attacks are uncommon. Wild animals generally prefer to avoid people and bears are no exception. Most encounters between bears and people occur when the bear’s natural avoidance behaviour shifts to aggression because of the following factors:

  1. You surprise them.

  2. They are protecting young or food.

  3. They follow food and food-like odours.

  4. Your dog provokes an attack.

  5. The bear you encounter is habituated to people and has lost its natural fear.

     Bear behaviour is hard to predict because they are complex animals. Each bear is an individual with the potential to react differently in different situations. The information that follows will give you some basics on how to avoid an encounter in the first place and guidance on how to react should one occur.

     The best thing to do is . . . AVOID an encounter.

  • Make noise. Let bears know you're there.

Call out, clap hands, sing or talk loudly—especially near streams, dense vegetation and berry patches, on windy days, and in areas of low visibility. (Some research shows that bear bells are not enough).

  • Watch for fresh bear sign. Tracks, droppings, diggings, torn-up logs, turned-over rocks are all signs that a bear has been in the area. Leave the area if the signs are fresh.

  • Travel in groups. Larger size groups are less likely to have a serious bear encounter. We recommend hiking in a tight group of four or more. Never let children wander.

  • Use officially marked paths and trails and travel during daylight hours.

  • Never approach a bear. Always maintain a distance of at least 100 metres.

  • If you come across large dead animals, leave the area immediately and report it to Park Rangers.

  • Keep your dog on a leash at all times or leave it at home. Dogs can provoke defensive behaviour in bears.

Backcountry Camping

     To stay safe and protect wilderness, travel with two goals in mind: limiting your impact by avoiding encounters and managing your food, food smells and garbage.

  • Camp in designated areas where provided. When you’re in campgrounds, bear-proof your site and keep it completely attractant-free. If random camping, set up cooking, eating, and food storage areas at least 100 metres downwind from your tent. Ensure good visibility so animals cannot approach unseen. Avoid camping, cooking or eating near running water, thick brush, animal trails or berry patches.

  • Keep yourself and campsite odour free. Keep sleeping bags, tents, and sleeping clothes free of food, food odours or beverages.

  • Leave smelly cosmetics at home. Store toiletries and personal items with food.

  • Store your food, pet food, livestock feed and garbage away from your tent. Hang between two trees at least 4 metres above the ground and 1.3 metres from top and side supports.

  • Wash and store all dishes and food utensils immediately after use. Strain food particles from dish water and store with garbage. Dump dish- water in designated areas or at least 100 metres from your sleeping area.

  • Pack out garbage–do not burn or bury it. Same storage as food.

If You Encounter a Bear

     Despite taking precautions, you may still encounter a bear. Remember that bears are complex, intelligent animals and no two encounters are alike. There is no single strategy that will work in each situation, but you can minimize your risk by following these guidelines:

If the bear attacks ...

Handling an ATTACK

     Most encounters with bears end without injury. If a bear actually makes contact, you may increase your chances of survival by following these guidelines. In general, there are 2 kinds of attack:

      1) DEFENSIVE

     The bear is feeding, protecting its young and/or unaware of your presence. It attacks because it sees you as a threat. This is the most COMMON type of attack.

     Use bear spray.

If the bear makes contact with you: PLAY DEAD!

     These defensive attacks are generally less than two minutes in duration. If the attack continues, it may mean the attack has shifted from defensive to predatory—FIGHT BACK!

     2) PREDATORY

     The bear is stalking (hunting) you along a trail and then attacks. Or, the bear attacks you at night. This type of attack is very RARE. Usually bears come to camps in search for foodstuffs attracted by smells!

Try to escape up a tree.

If you can’t escape, DON’T PLAY DEAD.

Use bear spray and fight back!

     FIGHT BACK! Intimidate that bear: shout; hit it with a branch or rock, do whatever it takes to let the bear know you are not easy prey. This kind of attack is very rare but it is serious because it usually means the bear is looking for food and preying on you.

     N.B. Visitor Centre staff can provide information on current bear activity, closures, warnings and safety advice.