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LEARN the WildSmart Basics

Living Smart with Bears

Grizzly and black bears are residents in the Bow Valley. The information below will help you stay safe while in bear country.

In most cases bears have no interest in encountering humans. However, encounters between bears and people do occur. Learn more about what to do in an encounter and what you can do to avoid them.

In the event you do come across a bear it is important to understand a bit about bear behaviour. Learn about the recommended response people should take; this is dependant on the type of interaction you have with the bear.

Avoid Bear Encounters

  • Do not approach or feed bears, this could elicit an unsafe response that could lead to human injury and/or the destruction of the bear.
  • To avoid surprise encounters, make lots of noise.
  • Watch for fresh evidence of bear activity e.g. tracks, scat, diggings, or overturned rocks and logs.
  • Travel in groups.
  • Walk your dog on leash.
  • Carry bear spray and know how to use it.
  • If you see a bear or see or smell a dead animal, leave the area.
  • Respect all trail closures and information signs. They are there for your safety.
  • Remove potential attractants from your property such as garbage, pet food, bird feeders, and berry bushes and fruit trees.

Handling an ENCOUNTER

Most encounters with bears end without injury. If the bear is unaware of your presence – leave the area in the direction you came.

If the bear is aware of your presence and does not leave, be non-threatening – speak calmly, don’t yell. Stay calm and back away slowly – DON’T RUN.

If the bear closes distance on you – even after you have tried to retreat, such behavior could be considered curious, indifferent or predatory.

If the bear continues closing distance – make yourself large, stand your ground and talk firmly to the bear.

Handling an ATTACK

You may increase your chance of survival by following these guidelines. In general, there are 2 kinds of attacks:

1. Defensive Attack

The bear is protecting a carcass, protecting its young and/or is surprised by your presence. It attacks because you are perceived as a threat. Remember bears will often bluff charge.

Be non-threatening – don’t run or yell. Stay calm and back away slowly.

Use your bear spray.

If the bear makes contact with you: PLAY DEAD!

Drop to the ground face down, interlace your fingers over the back of your neck and spread your legs to make it more difficult for the bear to turn you over. By playing dead the bear will likely lose interest in you and leave. Defensive attacks are generally less than two minutes in duration. If the attack continues, it may mean the attack has shifted from defensive to non-defensive (i.e. predatory) - in this case fight back!

2. Non- defensive Attack

The bear is aware of your presence, has time to leave but continues closing distance on you – even after you have tried to retreat. This behaviour could be considered curious, indifferent or predatory.

Use your bear spray. DO NOT PLAY DEAD and FIGHT BACK!

Intimidate the bear: shout; hit it with a branch or rock, do whatever it takes to let the bear know you are not easy prey.


If you're planning an outdoor adventure, remember that you are traveling in bear country.

Report bear sightings to 403.591.7755
For all public safety emergencies, call 9-1-1

Bear Management in the Bow Valley

There are a number of programs currently in place within the Bow Valley that are intended to reduce the potential for interaction between bears and people. They include:

Of Interest...

Grizzly Bears and Berry Season

The following interactive map illustrates grizzly bear activity in the vicinity of the Town of Canmore before, during and after berry season. The illustration is based on GPS fixes of 3 bears recorded at regular intervals between 2000 and 2003.
Note: the red spots mark the bear locations during berry season.

Click image to enlarge.

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