New bear handbooks counter some myths

Fed bears are not tame, bears can run downhill, bears can swim and playing dead isn’t always the best option.

Fed bears are not tame, bears can run downhill, bears can swim and playing dead isn’t always the best option.

These are just a few of the myths dispelled in the new Environment Yukon Bear Safety handbook.

Released in time for the Yukon summer tourism rush, the booklet is designed to help outdoor enthusiasts and casual hikers stay safe in bear country.

“We also wanted to provide new information to residential homeowners, because we still get calls from people who get concerned about bears in their backyard,” said Dennis Senger, spokesperson for the Environment department.

The publication was released as the result of a successful application for increased funding from the Yukon government to support bear-safety initiatives.

“Our major goal is to teach people how not to do things that might provoke the bear,” said Senger.

“We don’t want to have to go out and shoot them,” he said.

The booklet dismisses previous “catch-all” methods of bear safety, and focuses heavily on dealing with bears based on their behaviour.

If a bear is acting defensively, it is best to avoid being seen as a threat, said the booklet.

If it makes defensive charges, the best option is to “stand your ground,” but not fight back.

However, in the event of an aggressive bear it’s best to be aggressive and to fight back if attacked.

A defensive or a non-defensive bear can be differentiated by its mannerisms and attitude, says the booklet.

Wildlife officials have sought to revise the presentation of bear safety information for about a decade.

While in-depth bear safety information is available on the Environment Yukon website, this is the first time that comprehensive information is available in a concise, distributable format.

The small book is a perfect “tackle box” size.

The booklet contains breathtaking photos of real human-bear interaction.

In one, a woman comes within close range of a startled trio of grizzly bears.

“Bears aren’t this demon that people suggest they are. If the bear is aware of you, I’ve never had a problem with putting a person in the picture,” said photographer Phil Timpany.

“When the bear has a chance to be surprised, if it doesn’t know you’re there, or if it’s some critter that I absolutely don’t recognize from prior experience, then I wouldn’t be doing that kind of thing.”

The Yukon is home to 10,000 black bears and 6,000- to 7,000 grizzly bears. Rare polar bears exist on the Yukon’s north coast.