Bear Bells...is the ringing of the bell, the bear's dinner signal?
I have been hiking every weekend for more than full year now and I have struggled with; Should I carry a bear bell, or not? To start with I would have to say it's pretty annoying to hear the continued sound of dinging as you walk along the quiet sounds of nature. Some people would say, who cares..letting the bear know you are coming is far more important than a ding here and there...or is it?
BEAR from The Daily Dirt...the nitty gritty outdoor news says..."Regardless, bells aren't terribly loud and could easily get lost in the sounds of wind, a river, or thick forest. It's much safer and smarter to use your own voice: Sing, shout my name, or, if you're Herrero, yodel. It's the best, most reliable way to alert me to your unfamiliar presence and ensure that I head in the opposite direction. Believe me: Yodeling sounds just as bad to my ears as it does to yours."
In Dawn Hanna's 'Easy Hikes & Walks' she quotes Tony Hamilton (BC Wildlife Branch bear biologist) in saying...'It's like ringing a dinner bell. The bears have clued in that bells mean dinner is coming.'
I say...remember you may be climbing a mountain/hiking or walking in the trails but you are visiting the bear's house and in their house it might be mama bear protecting her cubs, so you better look out. It's not right for us to think they are doing something wrong. This is their house and we must respect that. Imagine if someone un-familiar came into your house... What would you do?
Don't surprise bears. If you're hiking, make your presence known. Make noise by talking loudly or singing.
If you can, travel with a group. Groups are noisier and easier for bears to detect.
Keep in mind that bears tend to be more active at dawn and dusk so plan your hikes accordingly.
Stay on marked trails and obey the regulations of the area you're hiking/camping in.
If you're hiking in bear country, keep an eye out for tracks, scat, digs, and trees that bears have rubbed.
Leave your dog at home! Dogs will often bark at the bear making the situation worse. However, when hiking alone I feel a dog is necessary.
If You Encounter a Bear…
Remain calm and avoid sudden movements.
Give the bear plenty of room, allowing it to continue its activities undisturbed. If it changes its behavior, you're too close so back away.
If you see a bear but the bear doesn't see you, detour quickly and quietly.
If a bear spots you, try to get its attention while it is still farther away. You want it to know you're human so talk in a normal voice and waive your arms.
Remember that a standing bear is not always a sign of aggression. Many times, bears will stand to get a better view.
Throw something onto the ground (like your camera) if the bear pursues you, as it may be distracted by this and allow you to escape.
Never feed or throw food to a bear.
If a Bear Charges...
Remember that many bears charge as a bluff. They may run, then veer off or stop abruptly. Stand your ground until the bear stops, then slowly back away.
Never run from a bear! They will chase you and bears can run faster than 30 mph.
Don't run towards or climb a tree. Black bears and some grizzlies can climb trees, and many bear will be provoked to chase you if they see you climbing.
If you have pepper spray, be sure that you have trained with it before using it during an attack. It will blind dogs & humans...
If a Grizzly Bear Attacks...
Lie face down on the ground with your non-dominant hand around the back of your neck.
Stay silent and try not to move.
Keep your legs spread apart and if you can, leave your pack on to protect your back.
Once the bear backs off, stay quiet and still for as long as you can. Bears will often watch from a distance and come back if they see movement.
If a Black Bear Attacks
Be loud, waive your arms, and stand your ground.
Fight back! Be aggressive and use any object you have.
Only if you are sure the bear attacking is a mother who is protecting its cubs, play dead.
If you have pepper spray, use it. Begin spraying when it's within 40 ft so it runs into the fog. Aim for the face.
I can't tell you for sure if you should or shouldn't carry a bear bell, I am not a professional and really it's up to you. I just want to give you some information to think about. It seems far safer to use your loud voice and follow the steps above to stay safe in bear country. Remember we are the visitors and it is their country!!! I have been on more hikes than I can count over the years and have yet to see a bear, in the wild, that is...For now, I have tucked away my bear bell.
I have to tell you a couple of stories before I can tell you all about cougar safety tips. My buddy and aunt by marriage, Marcia, and I were travelling for a day hike up to Garibaldi Lake on Mount Garibaldi in Whistler, B.C. On the way up I told her we would might see bears and/or cougars...She was a little troubled and shakened by this information so I texted her husband & my uncle, Rick to make her feel better. He responded by, "The only cougars you're going to see are yourselves." Thankfully we didn't see a cougar that day.
Another time I was hiking with my good buddy Wendy and her daughter Cassandra. We were on the Lindeman Lake Trail out in Chilliwack, B.C. As we were climbing the trail I had an eerie feeling...one as if someone was following you. I didn't like it! At that same moment Wendy mentioned she could smell a wet animal. I began to feel very anxious. I started to whack sticks on top of rocks & logs, as we walked. We got to the top of Lindeman where there are camping pads and the lake. After a snack & rest at the top we walked back down. As we walked down that feeling I had experienced earlier, was gone. Later that day, I posted my pictures of the hike to Face Book as I always do. My friend and hiking leader, Kiki, told me her son was there the night before camping and he had been in his tent shaking as steps away he heard the grunting of a bear and the hissing of a cougar. There was a stand-off and he was in the middle. The hairs on my back stood up. I learnt to always trust that little warning voice you hear in the pit of your stomach. I'm not sure if our loud voices or whacking of the stick scared the cougar away but I am sure glad that information was stored away in my roll-a-dex files. I know that day, a cougar was there, stalking us, as cougars do!
Cougar safety tips:
Be alert and aware at all times.
Avoid surprise encounters by making noise -- i.e. use your voice
Hike or bike in groups of two or more and keep children close at hand.
Keep dogs leashed.
Look for signs of fresh cougar activity -- i.e. claw marks on trees or logs, scat or paw prints.
Avoid food caches: cougars will cover unconsumed portions of their kill with twigs, leaf litter or soil. If you come across a cache, leave the area immediately. Be alert to circling ravens or turkey vultures.
Riding or running fast and quietly puts you at risk for surprise encounters. Slow down going around blind corners and make noise.
Cougar kittens are usually well-hidden. However, if you do encounter cougar kittens, do not approach or attempt to pick them up. Leave the area immediately, as a female will defend her young.
Carry a study walking stick to be used as a weapon if necessary.