Canada is home to thousands of bears. From the black bear (Ursus americanus) so named after it’s black fur, the smallest of the bear family, the Grizzly/brown bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) which is frikkin’ huge large by any standard when up close or within sight, the Kermode or ‘White Spirit Bear’ (Ursus americanus kermodei) which makes its home in the temperate rain forest of the pacific coast and the Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) know for it’s white fur and love of cold arctic conditions.
Black bears are known to eat flora like wild berries, grasses and herbs, wild and orchard fruits, honey, nuts and various seeds. They also have a thing for other animals flavors, like fish both fresh and dead, stinky carrion, insects, small mammals and they find human garbage irresistible. Sometimes the best place to see black bears are the garbage dumps in most northern towns. They are very difficult to spot in low light conditions. If you should come across a cute little black bear cub, don’t try to rub its belly because its mom is probably close by and can’t stand it when that happens. As cute as the situation might seem, you are in danger of serious injury.
The Kermode or Spirit bear is not often seen by people other than wild life photographers who live to bring back lovely images, loggers and fishing types and other locals where that bear is known to hang out.
Grizzlies or brown bears are bad ass. Their enormous size alone grants them special status and no one messes with them, except for humans with high powered guns. Hair color ranges from light browns to darker shades of brown to near black with silvery hair tips on some specimens. It is difficult to look away when you spot/see one of these beasts. Seeing them from a safe distance/area is much more fun than suddenly running into one of these giants on a quiet, suddenly much too remote trail or in a patch of densely wooded area.
The Polar bear inhabits frozen north. An excellent Canadian example is the area around the town of Churchill, Manitoba, acknowledged Polar Bear Capital of the World where they brazenly check out tourists and townspeople alike. That town even has a jail for these large white hairy ghosts and round the clock lookout for any sign of bears entering or in town. This bear will actually hunt humans if super hungry and/or seals prove to be scarce.
Bears are not like cute cuddly stuffed Teddy Bears or the kind you see in Saturday morning cartoons or depicted in other popular children’s entertainment scenarios. But I bet you they would eat your porridge, hot, warm or cold.
Don’t jump up into a tree for safety if a black bear is after you. They are excellent tree climbers.
Know that a Grizzly has knives on his paws, long ones 10-13cm long. Those and a huge mouth can mess you up right quickly and you’ll likely suffer broken bones too.
Polar bears … try to avoid being stalked by them but be ready for trouble when in their backyard.
All bears are much faster than you imagined. Really.
The experts advise that you should play dead when confronted with an angry, pissed off and aggressive grizzly bear. Do you know why? My guess is that you might well soon be dead and perhaps this kind of prepares you for that. Kissing your ass good bye is also a good idea unless you are aggressive yourself and don’t want to go down without a good fight. Fighting a black bear might get you out of that particular tight spot, you might get lucky, you might not be so lucky. Pick your battle carefully. Sure, read up on what to do when in bear country, make noise, lots of noise, make yourself appear taller than you actually are, don’t turn and run and pack your trail bell or legal side arm/shotgun and/or bear spray, if it makes you feel better. Rumor has it that bears love spicy food.
Not proven if you can slowly move away from a Kermode bear by telling it just how cute it looks.
If you don’t want to play dead, have any means of defending yourself, have a dog along you might offer up as substitute sacrifice or forgot your can of bear spray and are hiking with friends, and still think you can get home in time to watch the hockey game, you can try running, you just have to be faster than the slowest member of your group. (Disclaimer – the last sentence is not to be taken as any kind of rational advice, or life saving suggestion, implied or otherwise)
Be safe, have fun out there and please don’t temp the bears with bacon smells, or maple frosted donoughts.