CPAWS Southern Alberta Blog

How to be safe in bear country

When enjoying the glorious wilderness places of Southern Alberta, having the awareness that we share all this land with the beautiful Alberta wildlife is essential in protecting both ourselves and the animals. From cougar, elk and eagles to our most famous wilderness wanderer, the bears, it is possible to have surprise encounters or negative encounters, on the trails, if we are unprepared and unaware.

  • The first step in ensuring you do NOT meet a bear, is awareness. Checking the trail reports, contacting one of the Kananaskis Visitor Centers are good ways to find out if a trail is closed or is known to have a bear in the area, feeding.
  • If the trail is open for hiking, it is important to follow the guidelines for safe hiking. Hike in groups of four to five, where possible. 
  • Make noise on the trail so that the animals know a human is in the area. Using your voice is the best sound to make. Call out in areas where streams may reduce you voice being heard, make a call at blind corners to reduce surprise greetings of a human and bear on the trail.
  • Bring your bear spray and know how to use it.
  • Taking a bear awareness course, to learn about the signals a bear sends, is essential in reading the situation. You can also learn to identify signs of a bear in an area.
  • Giving a bear space, as you have entered their home, is always a good idea for hikers. Never attempt to go around a bear or move the animal off the trail, so you can pass.
  • If you see fresh sign of a bear, or the hairs on your neck are tingling, trust your instincts, head back down the trail and try a different hike.
  • Keep all your foods in sealed containers. Never leave food behind, or attempt to feed a bear. This is how bears learn to associate humans with food.
  • Stay on the trail, don’t get too spread out. Wait for people on washroom breaks.
  • If hiking with dogs, keep them under control and on a leash at all times.

These are a few ways to be a good wildlife neighbor in our beautiful mountains. These practices will insure you and the wildlife continue to thrive in the foothills and mountain trails of Southern Alberta.

Julie Walker
Hiking Guide
CPAWS Southern Alberta