Bear attacks are rare but it's best to be safe, says Dan LeGrandeur, who develops bear conflict management plans and teaches bear aversion techniques to emergency personnel and resource workers in B.C. and Alberta.
"Unless you have a lot of interactions with bears, there's all sorts of pre-conceived ideas that they are man-eaters, which is not true," said LeGrandeur, a former B.C. Conservation Officer who used to work in the Tri-Cities and now lives in Alberta and operates Bear Scare.
Monday's bear attack in Anmore has many people wondering how to stay safe during bear season. Prevention is key, LeGrandur says.
He advises people to secure their garbage, preferably indoors, and get rid of other bear attractants such as ripe fruit, pet food, greasy barbecue grills and bird seed. "Bears have to receive a clear, consistent message from everybody. One of the best ways to keep bears from getting into your backyard is managing what's in your backyard," he says.
On the trail, he advises hikers to walk in groups and carry a Fox 40 whistle. Giving the whistle the occasional blast will let bears in the area know you are coming so they can get out of the way. He also recommends people carry bear spray when they are in the back country in the event of a close encounter.
Still, LeGrandeur is careful to note that attacks and fatalities are rare.
A study recently published in the Journal of Wildlife Management last year noted there have been only 63 fatalities in 59 incidents in the U.S. and Canada in 100 years.
The study, covering the period 1900 to 2009 found that the vast majority of attacks were in August, when bears are fattening for denning, and it was mostly lone male bears, not females or female with cubs, that carried out the attacks.
In 38% of the deaths, edible garbage or human food was the lure and LeGrandeur says managing attractants is key whether you're on the trail or in your backyard.
If a bear insists on visiting your yard, LeGrandeur says, ignore it but if it doesn't retreat, make some noise with an air horn or pots and pans to send it away.
For more information about Bear Scare, visit www.bearscare.ca. For information about bears and reducing human bear conflicts, visit www.bearaware.bc.ca.
Call the provincial conservation officer service 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP) to report a problem bear.