Bears usually leave their winter den in April or May, depending on the weather that year. After leaving their den, the bears may either spend their time at low elevations near swamps, rivers or lakes or at high elevations near avalanche chutes and slide clearings.
After breeding in May-June, bears will spread throughout all elevations. Black bears tend to stay below the tree line, but grizzlies can be found in the alpine. In the summer, bears can be found in open areas such as meadows, burn sites and logging slashes where they can find new growth such as berries and grasses as well as insects and small mammals. In the fall, if salmon can be found in the rivers, then the bears will search them out. If not, then they tend to stick to their summer habitats and move to higher elevations until denning again for the winter.
In colder climates like the Yukon, bears usually 'hibernate' due to a lack of food sources and to give birth. Seeing a bear during the winter in the Yukon would be a rare sight indeed.
What do I do if I see a bear?
Stay calm. That probably didn't sink in, so I'll say it again - stay calm. The worst thing you could do is to panic and run away, and it does happen. Before you go into Yukon's wilderness, tell yourself that the first thing you will do when you see a bear is to stay calm, then you'll have a much better chance of consciously remembering.
Then, read the bear's behaviour. If its salivating, chomping, and its hair is standing up, then its probably aggravated and wants you to leave. If it looks at you once and then continues lazily eating grass, its probably not overly concerned that you're around. Take your bear spray out, break eye contact with the bear, talk calmly at it, and slowly back away. If the bear is near the trail and in your way, you will have to give it a wide berth if you decide to continue hiking forward.
--- Bear spray is the most effective deterrent against bears when used properly. It contains capsicum (a hot pepper derivate) and a propellent that sprays a mist of repellent between you and the bear. Most canisters shoot for approximately 10 seconds at a distance of about 5 meters or more.
The bear spray irritates the mucus membranes and eyes of the bear and may make it sneeze, cough, tear, and feel some pain. In Canada, the maximum percentage of capsaicin is 1%, which is not hot enough to burn the bear's mouth, otherwise leading it to eventual starvation.If a charging bear is sprayed, it may asphyxiate the bear (take its breath away) and leave it in a state that may allow you to leave the area.
The down side to bear spray is when there is a wind - make sure not to spray against the wind or you may be spraying yourself.
--- Bear bangers are used by loading a flare and/or banger and shooting it off. The flare creates a light show and the banger creates a large bang. Both are supposed to frighten the bear enough that it runs away. That's the key - it runs away. An improperly used bear banger could send the bear running straight at you. A good percentage of the time, the bear seems unnerved, as if it didn't even here the bang.
Bear Safety When Camping
- Choose a campsite well away from wildlife trails, spawning streams, signs of recent bear activity, and bear foods such as berry patches.
- In the back country, always burn your garbage thoroughly then pack out the unburned items, e.g... tins.
- Garbage can be simply stored in bear-resistant and odour-proof containers and packed out.
- Keep a clean camp.
- Don’t bring greasy, smelly foods like bacon and canned fish.
- Store and cook food well away from your campsite, downwind if possible
Bear Safety When Walking or Hiking
- Stay alert. Keep an eye out for bears so you can give them plenty of room. Look for recent bear sign such as tracks, scats, fresh diggings or tree scratches (If you see any of these, be especially cautious).
- Choose routes with good visibility where possible.
- Travel in groups.
- Make noise to let bears know you’re coming, especially in thick brush, berry patches or near running water.
- Loud talking or singing is better than using bells.
- Don’t approach a bear for a closer look or better photo. Use binoculars or a telephoto lens.