I don’t know about you folks, but I’m particularly fond of camping. There are certain areas where you can camp that have a relatively low risk of encountering bears, but a lot of the best places available in Ontario for camping are in areas that bears are known to inhabit. Algonquin Park, for example, is a place where you definitely have the chance of encountering a bear if the situation is right.
Do you know what to do when you’re approached by a bear? Comedian Eugene Mirman wants you to be informed:
I personally have never encountered a bear, but if I did, I don’t think I’d be too worried. Obviously, you have to take steps to try and avoid any encounters, but if you do ever find yourself face-to-face with a bear, you’re supposed to make yourself look as big as possible, make lots of noise, and even throw rocks and sticks at it to try and convince it that it wants no part of you. Obviously, those are just partial instructions. If you’re going camping somewhere where bears are, make sure you do a little research and know exactly what to do in such a situation.
Now I’m never worried about bears or other wildlife when I’m camping – but that’s partially because now that I have my VW camper, The Patchbus, I just sleep in it and don’t have to worry much.
— Ken Elrick II (@DrPatchbeard) August 11, 2015
If I were camping in a tent, however, I probably still wouldn’t be too worried. As long as you follow basic guidelines (clean up after every meal, get rid of garbage often, and store your food inside your vehicle (and make sure you lock it!) or hung at a good height from a tree so bears can’t reach it, even if they were to climb the tree). If you’re going deep into bear country, it’s not a terrible idea to have some bear spray and maybe a whistle to aid you in being loud and scaring the bear off.
Not too long ago, I was talking to my mom. She’d made plans with her boyfriend to go camping in Tobermory (which is one of my favourite places I’ve ever visited in the Patchbus), but pulled out at the last minute when she learned there was a potential to encounter bears there. I tried to reassure her that if she followed a few basic guidelines (which the campsite had even laid out for her), she would probably not even see a bear, let alone have to fight one. I told her how I’m never worried about bears when I camp, to which she replied “Yeah, but you sleep in a van, with metal all around you.” Good point, although the tent trailer she’d have stayed in wouldn’t have exactly been roughing it. I asked her “When do you think the last bear attack in Ontario was?” She replied “June 2016, Tobermory, ON.” Yeah, she went and did research on bear attacks, there was no turning back at that point.
After I learned she’d decided not to go (and probably missed out on a good time), I gave her a little bit of grief for it. I get that some bears are dangerous, but the majority of black bears (which are the type that inhabit that area) seem pretty docile and easily frightened.
A perfect example is this guy scaring off a bear in the most Canadian way possible:
That was easy. No, I know not all encounters go like that. People have been mauled to death by bears before, so you certainly shouldn’t go seeking them for any reason… But unless the bear is acting overly aggressive (or you’re between a mother and her cubs), you likely don’t have a ton to worry about. You could always bring your cat along for protection:
Let’s just watch that on a loop here for a minute.
One thing you definitely SHOULDN’T do is climb a tree to try and escape a bear. As you’ll see in this next video, they’re excellent climbers… Like scary good.
You certainly don’t want to end up like this Russian guy, do you?
If you think yelling or screaming (or even just conversing) in English is going to help you dissuade a bear from coming toward you or, say, destroying your kayak… Well, you’re mistaken, as this girl in Alaska illustrates very well:
I don’t know why she thinks just standing there and screaming is going to do anything, but at least she spewed out a couple funny lines while going crazy. “It’s not even food! It doesn’t even taste good! It’s just plastic!”
So for those of you who refuse to explore the backwoods because of a crippling fear of black bears, maybe this can help you get over it. Obviously, there’s danger with any bear, but it seems for a lot of ’em, they’re more afraid of you than you are of them. So be careful, but don’t let fear destroy your chances of enjoying a nice camping trip!