Close Encounters
/ Author: CLAC Staff
/ Categories: Guide magazine /
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Close Encounters

Bears, wolves, moose? Oh my!

You wear proper protective equipment. You know how to safely work from heights and handle dangerous substances. But are you prepared for an animal encounter at work?

Brushes with wildlife have increased in recent years as humans encroach on animals’ natural habitats. Knowing how to avoid wild animals—and what to do when you encounter one—can help you stay safe on the job and out on the trail.

 

Cute, Cuddly—And Deadly

Cautious Creatures

  • Most wild animals want to avoid humans—with the exception of hungry, diseased, or injured animals or animals that have become so accustomed to humans that they lose their instinct to stay away.
  • Most conflicts between humans and animals are caused by humans.
  • Animals are drawn to work and camp sites where food and waste haven’t been properly disposed of.
  • Ensure food is stored securely, and put garbage in double plastic bags or animal-resistant bins.


Tip

Never feed wild animals because they will quickly lose their natural fear of humans.

 

Stop the Selfies!

  • Don’t be tempted to snap a quick selfie or two and share the cute animal adorableness on social media.
  • Where there’s a baby, there’s going to be a protective—and possibly aggressive—parent nearby, whether it’s a goose, bear, moose, caribou, or other animal.
  • If you come across a cute creature, keep a respectful distance.
  • If you’re a wildlife enthusiast, keep binoculars handy to observe safely from afar.


Tip

The phrase angry mama bear exists for a reason!

Bears

5 Things to Know

  • Black bears can be found throughout Canada; grizzlies and brown bears range mostly in BC, Alberta, and the Territories; and polar bears are only found far up north.
  • Bears are powerful animals and faster than you think—they can easily outrun you.
  • Watch for signs of bear activity such as overturned logs, diggings, and fresh claw marks on trees.
  • Always carry a large walking stick, whistle, and bear spray when you are heading out into known bear country.
  • Although bears generally avoid people, they may approach you in either a defensive or nondefensive manner.


5 Ways to Protect Yourself

Defensive Approach

Bears react defensively when they are surprised by you and see you as a threat—especially if they have cubs or food to protect. They will appear agitated and stressed and will huff and vocalize.

  • Appear nonthreatening.
  • Talk calmly—your voice signals that you are not an animal.
  • Start backing away slowly when the bear stops coming toward you.
  • If it keeps coming, stand still and get bear spray ready.
  • If it attacks, lie still and play dead until the bear leaves.


Nondefensive Approach

Bears may approach because they’re curious, to test their dominance, or because they smell food on you—or think you’re food. They will usually approach quietly and calmly with their sights set on you and their head and ears up.

  • Talk loudly and firmly.
  • Move out of the way, but if the bear follows, stand your ground.
  • Make yourself look big.
  • Shout and act aggressively—throw rocks and swing sticks to scare the bear away.
  • If the bear continues to approach, use bear spray.


Tip

CLAC Training in Alberta and BC offers a bear awareness course online, which covers general bear facts and discusses safety procedures for personnel working in, setting up, and maintaining a camp in bear country. Check out clac.ca/training, select your province, and then select online courses.

Cougars, Coyotes, Wolves

5 Things to Know

  • Cougars are mostly found in BC, but also in the Prairies, southern Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick; coyotes range across the country as do wolves, except the Maritimes.
  • Attacks by cougars, coyotes, and wolves are rare.
  • Cougars lie hidden, waiting for prey, or approach (stalk) unseen. Attacks have increased as humans have encroached on their territory and cougar numbers have increased.
  • Coyote attacks generally only occur when the animal has been fed previously by people. Because of a coyote’s small size, injuries are usually not serious, and you have a good chance of fighting them off.
  • Wolves seldom attack because they’re very wary of humans and typically travel in packs away from where people live. Very few wolf attacks cause death.

5 Ways to Protect Yourself

  • Travel in groups when possible and have bear spray handy.
  • Leave the dog at home—dogs actually attract attacks.
  • Make yourself look big, put children on your shoulders, and defend your position.
  • Be aggressive—make lots of noise, shout, stamp your feet, wave a stick.
  • Fight back with everything you have.

 

Tip

Never run from a cougar, coyote, or wolf—they instinctively see something that runs as prey and will chase you down.

Elk, Moose, Deer, Caribou

5 Things to Know

  • They are generally shy and afraid of humans.
  • Keep your distance as they can become aggressive and defend themselves when scared or stressed.
  • Never get between a mother and her offspring—they may become aggressive if they perceive you as a threat against their young.
  • Watch for males during the fall rutting season—they are much more likely to become aggressive.
  • Along with black bears, they present a major hazard on highways for workers and travellers in many parts of Canada.

5 Ways to Protect Yourself

When an animal displays aggressive behaviour (stomping, flailing its front legs, charging) . . .

  • Back away slowly.
  • Use a soft voice.
  • Don’t make direct eye contact.
  • Keep your dog under control.
  • Be prepared to use bear spray.


Tip

Moose, elk, deer, and caribou can be very unpredictable and suddenly bolt in front of passing vehicles. Slow down and practice extra caution when travelling in areas populated by wildlife—especially at night.

Sources: cos-mag.com, wikipedia.org, mtlblog.com, tchester.org, Alberta Environment and Parks, backpackcanada.com, Parks Canada (pc.gc.ca)

 

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