What to do if you encounter a bear ?

Encountering a black bear or a grizzly bear on a walk in the woods is the fear of many hiker on a Canadian road trip.

Who can boast of knowing exactly how to react in the event of an encounter with one of these impressively huge mammals?

Here are some helpful tips to know before your trip, especially if you plan to hike.

Write down the most important things to remember about what to do if you encounter a bear.

Tips to avoid meeting a bear

what to do bear encounter
Useful tips
  • Respect the bear presence notices posted by park officals if you are in a National Park in Quebec or any other province. Do not venture into areas that have been closed to the public.
  • Try go on hikes in a group of at least 4 people and keep your eyes on the children, so that they stay close to you.
  • Be as loud as possible by singing, talking loudly, shouting and clapping your hands. The noise will alert them of your presence and they will likely decide to leave the area.
  • Be especially careful if you are walking against the wind because the bear cannot smell you or if you are walking near a stream, lake or river because it will be difficult for them to hear you.
  • Avoid walking in the evening and follow the official paths.
  • If you see fresh tracks from a bear, whether it be tracks, droppings, holes in the ground or stones that have been turned over, or if you find a dead animal carcass, leave the area immediately. .
  • If you meet one or more bear cubs, their mother is probably not far away and will seek to protect them. Don't stay put.
  • Avoid bringing your dog on a hike as it can anger the bear.
  • Dispose of your waste in appropriate places, such as bear-proof bins.
  • While camping, make sure your site is clean and avoid leaving food, waste, dirty dishes or wastewater (from cooking or dishes), oils or grease, a cooler, a tablecloth, or scented items like sunscreen, mosquito repellent, toothpaste, soap, etc. before you go to sleep. 

What to do if you encounter a bear ?

tips for bear encounters canada hikes
Remain calm! 
  • Be vigilant and above all, stay calm. Be careful not to drop anything so as not to distract him.
  • Stay together, hug the children and don't run, although a bear is massive, it can easily catch up with you.
  • If you have cayenne pepper with you, take it in your hands.
  • Slowly back out of the area, don't look him in the eye, and speak calmly. Never turn your back on a bear.
  • It is important to make sure the bear has enough room to leave the area.
  • Watch for signs of the bear's aggressiveness, for example: showing claws or teeth, growling, screaming, blowing loudly, bending ears back, staring at you, head nodding, banging on the ground or snap jaws. All of these are signs that it needs more space.


If the bear is simply curious

what to do if you see a bear
Use your cayenne pepper if you think it's necessary

If you come across a bear trying to test its dominance or looking for something to eat, it will have its head and ears pricked up.

Just keep talking to him in a firm tone and walk away quietly, stepping back slowly.

If he is following you, stop and stand up to him and try to intimidate him.

You can yell and sound aggressive. Use your cayenne pepper, spraying it on his muzzle, if necessary.


If the bear is defensive

canada travel bear viewing
Mama bears are very protective of their cubs

If the bear is feeding, or it is with its cubs, or you have caught it off guard and it feels attacked, it may want to defend itself.

If the bear approaches and touches you, play dead by lying on the ground face down with your legs apart and your hands behind your neck to protect your head.

Keep your backpack on if you have one and stay calm. If the bear no longer feels danger, it will leave you alone.

Do not move until he has fleed the scene.


If the bear attacks as a predator

what to do if you encounter bear cubs
Take refuge in a vehicle or building if possible

If you come across a bear behaving aggressively, following you, charging at you, or attacking you at night, defend yourself!

This type of attack is extremely rare, but you should take refuge in a vehicle or building if possible. You can try climbing a tree, but remember the bear can, too.

If you can't run away, use your cayenne pepper and try to intimidate him by hitting him with rocks, a tree branch, a stick, a knife, yelling and showing him that you are not a prey.

In this case, do not play dead!


Here you have it! You now know how to act around bears.

Above all, you shouldn't keep yourself from hiking in the forest because bear encounters are still rather rare.

To observe them in complete safety, know that several outfitters in Canada offer black bear safaris.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to leave them in the comments box below. 

Karolane Lessard

An enthusiast of both our vibrant cities & great oudoors, my life revolves around travel & adventure. It's a no brainer that I have to share the wonders & secrets of my neck of the woods with other travelling souls. Enjoy the journey!


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