Bear and Biker Etiquette from the DOS

The Wildlife Coordinator for the District of Squamish has some helpful info for trail users on bear etiquette. Please give the info below a read in an effort to keep riders safe, and bears happy, on our trails and in our forests.

(1) BERRIES, BEARS AND BIKES, OH MY.

Hey bikers! Those yummy berries you see on the trails are a sumptuous feast for bears. Berries are ripening in the front and backcountry right now – so be extra aware of bears on the trails! Avoid surprise encounters by making noise. Use your voice near berry patches, going around blind corners or near running water. And slow down when you can’t see ahead! Remember: expect wildlife at any time, be prepared and carry bear spray on a hip or chest holster.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDgBY2PbnO4

(2) HOW TO AVOID WILDLIFE ON THE TRAILS.

When you’re heading out on the trails – expect and respect wildlife! Here are a few top tips to keep you safe, and the wildlife wild. Stay alert on the trails, carry bear spray and try to avoid wildlife by:

  • Riding without wearing earbuds;
  • Make noise – don’t be shy, use your voice!
  • Keep a lookout for signs of wildlife activity to avoid surprise (scat, rolled over rocks, ripped apart logs);
  • Leash dogs or give them the day off.

(3) YOU’RE BIKING AND YOU ENCOUNTER A BEAR – HERE’S WHAT TO DO:

The Squamish trail system is our happy place – but with the increase of people hitting the trails (locals and visitors alike), it’s important to be prepared for a wildlife encounter. Please be bear aware and know what to do if you encounter a bear on the trail – for your own safety AND to ensure our wildlife are not threatened and remain wild.

  • Carry bear spray and travel in groups. Know how to use your bear spray and ensure it’s accessible quickly if needed.
  • Stop and stay calm. Your calm behavior can reassure the bear.
  • Never run or ride away, unless the bear has moved on – running or riding away quickly may cause the bear to chase you.
  • Get children behind you; leash your dog; stay in a group.
  • Bears may approach or stand on their hind legs to get a better look at you or to pick up your scent. This is their way of identifying you and is not an aggressive response.
  • BE HUMAN. Speak to the bear calmly and firmly. This indicates that you are human and not a prey animal.
  • Keep your bike between you and the bear – it can provide protection.
  • Back away slowly and calmly from the area while talking calmly to the bear. Do not turn your back to the bear.
  • If the bear approaches, put your bike between you and the bear, become louder and firmer with efforts to encourage the bear to leave you alone. Sometimes they are just curious or they have had other trail users stop to take photos and are becoming habituated to humans. Have bear spray ready.
  • Alert other trail users of the sighting.

(4) YOU’RE BIKING AND YOU ENCOUNTER A COUGAR – HERE’S WHAT TO DO:

Wildlife reminder: Squamish is located in wildlife country and although uncommon, there is always the potential for a cougar encounter. While conflict encounters are rare, trail users should always be alert and aware.

If you encounter a cougar:

  • Stop!
  • Stay calm and talk to the cougar in a confident voice.
  • Do NOT run! 
  • Make yourself look bigger and appear as a threat and not prey.
  • Do NOT turn your back on the cougar, stay standing with your bike between you and the animal, and do not hide.
  • Always give a cougar an escape route, make sure it has a way out and away from you.
  • Get bear spray ready. If a cougar attacks, fight back.

(5) PLANNING TO RIDE WITH YOUR DOG? REMEMBER THAT DOGS AND WILDLIFE DON’T MIX.

Dogs can be viewed as both prey or as competition for different wildlife species. Spring and summer are important seasons to wildlife for cub rearing and food availability so it’s best to keep dogs leashed or leave them at home during this time. Allowing dogs to chase or harass wildlife is an offence under the BC Wildlife Act. It’s also really dangerous as a dog may bring a wild animal back to you or aggravate the wildlife for the unsuspecting trail user behind you.

(6) TOP 3 BEAR SMART TIPS FOR THE TRAILS:

Be Bear Aware! Follow these three tips to avoid wildlife encounters on our trails:

  • Avoid surprise encounters: make noise by shouting out and slow down when you can’t see ahead.
  • Carry bear spray and know how to use it.
  • Respect all wildlife, give them space and resist taking pictures.

(7) GIVE WILDLIFE A BRAKE:

When out biking on the trails this season, give wildlife a brake! 

  • Use your brakes and slow down going around blind corners or when you can’t see ahead.
  • Shout out while going around blind corners.
  • Choose a different trail if wildlife sightings or signs are posted.

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