Bear Basics

High up on a steep alpine slope we saw them. Bear… diggings. Yup, nature’s rototiller was hard at work tearing up the alpine in search of a tasty morsel. You don’t have to see a bruin to know they’re around.

Bear diggings. (Photo: M.Kopp)

As we head off down the path of summer, chances of coming across sign of a black or grizzly bear is pretty high. So, if you haven’t already tuned up your bear observation and avoidance skills, here’s a quick refresher.

Bear sign and avoidance

Yo bear! Okay, it can be a tad embarrassing when you’re hiking along a noisy creek and you shout out to let wildlife know you’re coming their way… and someone calls back, laughing. But surprising a bear is no picnic either.

Your best bets for hiking in bear country are to make noise where vision is restricted and to be aware of your surroundings.

Always look for obvious indications that there has been a bear in the area:

  • bear scat (full of berries in season).
  • bear tracks (claws close to pad = black bear, claws far from pad = grizzly).
  • scratch marks on trees.
  • bear diggings where the bruin has gone after either a ground-dwelling rodent or a tasty batch of alpine plant roots.

If you come across fresh sign – tracks in wet muddy areas, non-weathered claw marks on trees, steaming scat, or diggings where the earth is still moist – make lots of noise and consider the options of turning around or taking a different trail.

© 2011

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