Saturday, 28 April 2018

Bear Viewing Tourism and My Family

Gear that I am lending my family
So, I have a rather extensive family in the Netherlands.  My maternal grandparents came to Canada in the 1950s, when my mother was very young.  They have maintained a close relationship over the years and now, with social media, it is easier than ever for me to stay in touch with some of my uncles, aunts, and cousins in Holland.  Over the years we have visited family in Holland and they have come to visit us here in Vancouver.  Without exception, one of the goals of any family member who is coming to visit us in Canada is to see a bear.

Family from Holland coming to see a bear has caused us plenty of concern over the years.  Much of Europe is so densely populated and devoid of real wilderness that there is no need for basic survival gear, let alone the deeply ingrained sense of caution most Canadians have when it comes to bears.  In Holland, towns are so close together that you really cannot get lost.  It's wonderful to always be within a few minutes bike ride of a cafe or cold beer.  It is in total contrast to the vastness of Canadian wilderness.

My grandparents like to tell a story about how when they first came to Canada and settled in Edmonton, they went camping in Jasper and spent the first night listening to bears tipping over the garbage cans all around their tent.  At one point my grandfather got out of the tent and tried to chase off a black bear so they could sleep.  My grandmother was a lot more concerned, but they really had little appreciation for the fact that bears are wild animals which deserve a fair dose of preparation and caution.

Fast forward to now.  Yesterday I welcomed some family from Holland at YVR and as I drove them to my parent's house, where they are staying for a few days, and on the way we discussed their holiday plans.  My uncle, aunt, cousin and her two kids are definitely excited to go and try to see a bear.  My uncle is an ecologist in Amsterdam, so he is really interested in wildlife.  Last time I was in Holland we chatted about how wolves are starting to migrate into the northern parts of the Netherlands from Denmark and repopulate their former ranges.  So, we discussed the basics of bear identification, and safety, but like each time family comes to visit and wants to go see a bear, I was left feeling like, are they sure they know what they are getting themselves in to? I remember as a kid seeing tourists getting out of their cars and trying to walk up to bears and elk in Banff and it left a strong sense of the fact that a lot of people just don't know that wildlife is wild.

So, I decided to send an email to my relatives last night with links to the government website from Parks Canada about bears, along with some YouTube videos about what to do if they charge, and how to use bear spray.  My email read:

https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/mtn/ours-bears/generaux-basics




Typically, bear charges occur when a mother grizzly is trying to protect her cubs.  Most grizzly charges are false charges.  Rarely is it an attack charge.  Black bears don't generally charge or attack.  Here are some videos of what can happen if there is a grizzly charge.

https://youtu.be/Asaj-hN-pSM

https://youtu.be/_bx-0Jg3tX0


Tomorrow I am seeing a friend of mine in the area near my parent's house, so I will bring for you my Bear Spray.  Please take it with you if you go into the woods to look for bears.  This shows you how to use it. 

https://youtu.be/aIvpLzHiCrg

Be careful.  It is very very powerful and   I will drop it off at my parent's house if you are away.  It can be used for bears as well as cats like a cougar.

I don't mean to worry you! It is fun to see bears.  However, it is good to be prepared with bear spray.  I think you will not be anywhere where you would see a grizzly, so there is much less to worry about.
As I went to get my bear spray I saw my GPS, survival kit, first aid kit... hell, I'll just put together a few things.  I got carried away according to my wife, but when you hear about all the tourists who go missing in the back country because they are unprepared, how could I not loan my family the minimum of what I would take.  I hope they get their wish and see a bear and I will sleep a lot more easily knowing they have some basic equipment to stay safe in the woods.  My wife points out, rightly so, that they will likely stay on well marked trails, but you never know.  People get lost in Lynn Valley all the time, so anything is possible.


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