We are experiencing one of the earliest starts to the Calgary-area mountain biking season in years. The warm weather means more rides, more often, but in areas that we don’t normally have access to until later in the season. Bears are up and about, and we’re seeing quite a few on local trails. Trouble may be bruin, but it doesn’t have to.
So, what do you do when you spot a bear on the trail? Alberta Environment and Parks has a Be Bear Smart guide, and here are a few key points from it to remember when you’re out riding:
- Be alert. Make noise as you ride. My closest encounter with a bear was at Canmore Nordic Centre. I was riding up a hill with a buddy, chatting away and not paying attention to much. We got to within 10m of a grizzly that was chowing down on a berry bush beside the trail before we noticed it. Not cool. The bear likely saw and heard us coming for at least 50m and barely looked up from its meal. If we had been riding downhill, we might have spooked the griz with our fast, quiet approach. Hootin’ and hollerin’ on every descent will alert other trail users, including bears, to your presence.
- Stop, don’t panic. You may also wish to collaborate and listen, but the key thing to do when you encounter a bear is to not freak out. Don’t start screaming or running. Bears may not react well to being startled, so try not to do that. Also, do your best not to run; the bear may chase you [food runs]. Talk in a normal, non-threatening voice – the bear needs to know that you are people, not prey.
- Just walk away. Get your bear spray ready just in case, but walk away from the bear, keeping an eye on it as you go. Once you’re out of sight, jump on your bike and ride away. Don’t drop food on the ground, or shoot your bear spray in the air [seriously, people do that]. Odds are, the bear will move on or go back to whatever it was doing, and you will have safe passage.
Please take a look at the full Be Bear Smart guidelines and enjoy yourself on the trails.