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British Columbia – Bear Encounter 101

Watching cartoons, reading books and singing nursery rhymes about bears as a child ensured I didn’t fear them.  It didn’t help that I carried around a teddy bear until I was 10. His name was brown bear and by the time he was placed safely in a storage box, he only had one eye. All childhood memories aside – I eventually learned bears are not cuddle buddies. In fact, you are basically a meal ticket for them. Let me tell you, how we escaped our first head to head with a bear in Alberta and lived to tell the tale.

It all began on a warm summer day, we were finishing up our beautiful scenic road trip through the Canadian Rockies and heading back to Calgary, from our last stop in Banff. We were tired; parts of us were smelly and sticky. It was high time to get out of our van and into a bath. No objections. I for one was mildly sad that there was no bear sighting our entire trip but told myself it was for the best and decided watching a Leonardo Dicaprio movie would do the trick.

I was dreaming about Leo peacefully napping when our car came to a sudden halt and I woke up in frenzy to road signs that were all pointing to British Columbia. Did I mention we were in Alberta – on our way back to Calgary?

After a few moments, it dawned on us; we were an hour into British Columbia. So, naturally, we started the blame game and just as quickly pulled to the side of the road, next to a crowd of tourists and a park ranger.  

We got out of our van to see what all the commotion was and noticed a far distant sighting of bear cubs. So cameras out and away we clicked, as we discussed that we were proud of our bear cub sighting from the 3x zoom of our cameras.

The park ranger told us that mama bear wasn’t too far away, as she would not leave sight of her cubs. Low and behold, she was a few feet away from us. We were so excited; completely forgetting this could go very badly for us.  We started trying to take pictures and videos, but she was on the move and by the time we got a video of her she was around the wall – searching for food.

It was chaos. Some tourists trying to capture the moment, some trying to get to their cars, there was us, with our jaws to the ground, and a park ranger yelling at everyone to get back to their vehicles and leave.

We realized the bear was getting closer, so we slowly walked to our van and buckled down. As we tried to shut the automatic doors, they were jammed, I told myself I lived a good whole life and then we started to move. Lord have mercy – the doors did close and we were safely on our way to Calgary, again. That grizzly bear humbled us.

A grizzly bear standing in a bush in-front of forest and behind a short bricked ledge looking at the camera.

What should you do if you encounter a bear?

  • Slowly back the heck away and find safe refuge
  • Always hike with bear spray, in the event a bear gets aggressive
  • Unless your goal is to entice the bear to consider you for dinner, do not run
  • Use bear-proof food containers, so that you keep all the foods to yourself
  • In the event a bear tries to attack you, it’s essential to play dead by laying flat on your stomach
  • Lastly, don’t take that selfie. Not worth it. Don’t do it.

Moral of the story: listen to the park ranger and don’t let your childhood memories interfere with the fact that bears are not your friends. You are either their food or annoying. So, steer clear and stay safe.

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4 comments

  1. Amazingly written post! Glad you lived to tell the tale and got your wish of seeing a bear come true LOL.

    1. It was a pretty crazy experience – thank you!

  2. Crazy adventures! Lol.
    I would also like to mention, running downhill helps to escape a bear as well. They cant balance themselves well like we can (2 legs ftw) so they wont risk tumbling over. Also, a bear might stomp the ground and create a dust cloud as a warning you are too close.

    1. Thanks for the tips! We didn’t know that running downhill is a good way to escape. We would be too scared to try.