Bear aware

Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site

Black bears (Ursus americanus carlottae) play a vital role on the Islands; and for thousands of years, the Haida have respected this animal, calling bears Taan. The bears found on Haida Gwaii are often seen foraging in the intertidal zone. During autumn, they congregate around streams where the salmon are running.

Do not approach or feed the bears. Bears that begin to associate humans with food lose their natural fear of humans and become more aggressive when seeking human food. This can lead to potentially deadly encounters and the destruction of the animals. At Gwaii Haanas, it is our policy that if a bear becomes habituated to people, the area will be closed to people—we will remove the people, not the bears. Please act responsibly—for your safety, the safety of others, and the safety of the bears.

If You Encounter a Bear:

  • Stay calm. The best way to stay calm is by being prepared.

  • Make a wide detour or leave the area.

  • Do not run. Bears run faster than people and running may trigger an attack. Face the bear, back away slowly, and talk in a soft voice.

  • Do not drop objects, clothing or food to distract the bear. If the bear receives food, it will have been rewarded for its aggressive behaviour, thereby increasing the likelihood that it will repeat that behaviour again.

  • Watch for aggressive behaviours. A bear may display aggression by swinging its head from side to side; making vocalizations such as huffs, snorts, whoops, or moans; displaying teeth or claws; jaw popping; swatting at the ground; staring with eye contact; panting; or laying its ears back. These behaviours usually indicate that the bear is stressed, acting defensively and asking for more space. Attacks rarely follow. This is the most common kind of black bear aggressive encounter.

Most bear attacks occur after a bear has been surprised, particularly if the bear is a female with cubs. Bears are aggressive when defending a food source.

Keep Us Informed

Report all interactions with bears to Gwaii Haanas staff in the field or at the Gwaii Haanas office.

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