Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently AskedQuestions

General Questions

Can the general public be educated to be safe around bears?

There are some simple rules that could be taught to the public which would keep them out of trouble with bears, providing the bears have not been trained to dislike people. Some important rules would be

  • Always carry pepper spray.
  • Never offer food to a bear or let it have your garbage or pet food.
  • Never intentionally approach a bear and if it approaches you talk to it calmly.
  • Assume a relaxed posture and avoid eye contact until the bear shows no anxiety.
  • Slowly move away if either you or the bear feel uncomfortable.
Is it necessary to always make a lot of noise while hiking in bear country? No. With the experience that Maureen and I have gained we can now safely respond to situations as they occur and we only deliberately announce our presence in very thick bush. We have found that bears consider loud noise to be annoying which in itself may trigger aggression.
Should you play dead? This should only be considered as a last resort, after all else has failed and only if you are sure that the bear is a grizzly and it is about to maul you. Instead, carry pepper spray and know how to use it in the rare situation where a bear is aggressive. Also, talk to the bear with a calm, sincere voice, while telling it that you mean it no harm. The bear responds to the inflection of the voice.
Does it always follow that a bear becomes dangerous if it loses its fear of people? We are finding that as long as there is "mutual respect", bears will not act aggressively towards humans. For human safety to be sustainable, a whole different understanding of bears and different management practices will have be developed to replace the existing approach.
Are bears intelligent? What does this mean towards managing them? Yes. Recognizing their intelligence and wonderful memory is necessary in managing bears. We can then start to understand how bears respond to actions such as the unnecessary displacement of them from areas that people and bears could share if mutual understanding could be practiced.
Are grizzlies and black bears similar enough so what we have learned in Kamchatka is applicable to both? All the techniques that we emphasize about staying safe around grizzlies also apply to the black bear. The converse is not true because black bears are not as defensive as grizzlies. That is why it is important to study the grizzly and apply the knowledge back to the other species of bear.
Can our methods for protecting ourselves in grizzly country be applied to North America? Yes, the technique of using electric fencing and carrying pepper spray are useful for all who live or hike in bear country. Also, using our voice to calm bears when they are encountered could be useful to anyone who transcends their fear of bears enough to be able to speak calmly and sincerely to them about their peaceful intentions.
Do bear management practices have influence on a bear's attitude towards man? One trait that is true about grizzly bears is that there is a reasonable chance of them responding negatively to disagreeable or hurtful treatment. The opposite is also true. Because they are intelligent and sensitive animals, it would therefore follow that the management of them should also be intelligent and sensitive.
Why hasn't Eco Tourism developed in Kamchatcka? Kamchatka has extraordinary potential for tourism with its wonderful bears and other wildlife, volcanoes, and untouched wilderness, but this could only happen after it has developed some necessary infrastructure. Tourism is a must if the Russians are to realize the importance of protecting their natural resources. The Kambalnoy Lake area where we are situated, however, has such inhospitable weather with wind and fog, that it would be to unreliable for meeting schedules. Frequently, people see our photographs and and see a beautiful place that they would love to visit. What they usually don't understand is that we mostly take pictures when the weather is nice, which is quite rare. Being trapped by horrendous weather is a common occurrence.
What are we going to do with the information gathered? We are each writing a book - Maureen is working on a children's book and Charlie's is about a different understanding about bears.. Our web site will continue to connect people with our research. Maureen will premiere the "Through the Eyes of the Bear" art exhibition at the gala millennium opening of the Muttart Contemporary Art Center. The exhibition will include a pilot school program to coordinate artistic, scientific, and literary concerns while focusing on the conservation of bears and their habitat.
Why Do We Have To Go Back?
  • Our work is meaningful only if our findings have application in the populated world of our own bear country here in Canada. The longer we can demonstrate that our methods of living with bears is safe and can work, the more useful our findings will be in developing new management techniques.
  • We are learning the subtleties of what it takes for humans to be safe around bears. The number of bears provide a high frequency of contact in many different situations to test what we are learning. We are able to watch bears though the seasonal changes and the variables of food availability from year to year. We can even observe them through their life cycles but this takes time.
  • Our learning is accelerated because of our location among so many wild bears that are unspoiled by man. With five years of research in Kamchatka we will have gained the equivalent experiences that would take two lifetimes of research anywhere in the Rockies.

Do grizzly bears frequent the Okanagan orchards?

Grizzly bears in the Okanagan like the orchards this is true. They like to eat the fruit off the trees. As you probably know bears love berries but they also like the fruit off the orchards as well. There is a way to keep the bears out of the orchards and that is to erect an electric fence around the orchard. Maureen and Charlie have proven that electric fence is an effective tool to keep grizzly bears out of areas.



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