Instruction in keeping both people and bears in the Yukon safe was offered free by Yukon conservation officers and others in downtown Whitehorse on May 19.
The spring bear fair, held in LePage Park, offered information on avoiding dangerous bear encounters and hands-on training in deploying bear spray.
“If you are nervous about going out into the woods, you don’t have to be nervous. You need to be careful and you need to be prepared but you don’t need to be scared to go out there,” said hunter outreach and education coordinator Jim Welsh.
Welsh then took the crowd through a series of scenarios that hikers, hunters or others out on the land might encounter a bear in. He said the first consideration for people should be remaining present and aware when out in the woods, especially when it comes to signs of bears such as tracks or the smell of stashed animal carcasses.
Travelling in groups making noise and keeping children close and pets leashed is also recommended.
Welsh offered examples of behaviour from bears to indicate they feel their territory is being invaded and the best way for people to back away from a potentially dangerous encounter.
Welsh added that if the worst does happen and bear spray is required, it’s important to have it close at hand. Volunteers demonstrated the challenge of pulling bear spray out of a backpack in time to deter a charging bear.
Using bear spray cans loaded with an inert mixture rather than the potent irritant they usually contain, people practiced spraying a plastic bear on wheels rolled towards them mimicking a charge.
The educational event comes as conservation officers are reminding the public that bears are now awake from their winter hibernation and active in the Yukon.
Conservation officers are warning people to manage bear attractants on their properties noting bears that are rewarded with human food sources often threaten public safety. Examples of concerning attractants that a bear’s powerful sense of smell could lead them to include barbecues, outdoor fridges and freezers, recycling, garbage and compost bins. Gardens, bird feeders and chickens or other livestock can also attract bears.
Speaking to the crowd at the spring bear fair, Welsh said that in comparison to other places he has lived, the Yukon’s culture of managing attractants needs some work. He said that the recent cases where conservation officers have had to shoot problem bears have all been related to garbage or other attractants.
Contact Jim Elliot at email@example.com