...Bears, oh my?
July 1, 2012 5:04 PM   Subscribe

Hiking in Algonquin Park for the day, worried about bears. Silly, right?

We are two city people (myself and my mother) who love hiking. Up to this point we've only hiked local conservation areas where the largest animal we may encounter was a coyote or a deer. We've decided to hike the Track and Tower trail at Algonquin Park this coming Saturday, but we are slightly concerned about bears. I am aware this is sort of silly. I have read up on how encounters with bears should be handled, so I feel a bit better. What are you experiences with bears in Algonquin Park? Also open to suggestions for best places to canoe in the area. Thank you!
posted by heavenstobetsy to Science & Nature (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have not hiked in Algonquin park, but I have hiked in bear and cougar country (and have regularly come across bear droppings in the middle of the trail).

The best thing to do is to make noise in bear country. I don't know how people do it in Canada, but in Japan people tie bells and other noisemakers onto their packs.

As well, be sure to cache your food at night.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:11 PM on July 1, 2012

I hike amongst bears all the time.

First, be aware of areas where bears might be -- both by asking at a ranger station about recent bear activity before you start (and then avoiding any areas with same), and also by being aware of what bear habitat looks like ie places bears like to hang out such as berry patches or brushy areas with lots of delicious leaves. That said, they can be anywhere!

When we are in a bear area, we make a LOT of noise, and very LOUD noise -- clap, shout, sing songs, etc. And in dense or thick brush, or any time where you can't see very far ahead of you, or beside loud running water, also make a LOT of noise.

I have seen numerous bears (both black and grizzly) on the trail, but generally they are running in the opposite direction, having heard -- and disliked -- our boisterous mountain singing.

Have a great hike!
posted by lulu68 at 5:30 PM on July 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

ps: I'm in the Rockies so can't speak to Algonquin specifically.
posted by lulu68 at 5:31 PM on July 1, 2012

My family has a cottage on a lake about ten minutes from Algonquin Park, and occasionally (once every three or four years) bears do wander past, and our technique of choice has been to stand very still while sub-conciously holding our breath, and then freak out a little when it walks away. So far so good!

(One wandered onto our deck last summer!!)

In other words: they are around, but not in huge numbers, and they aren't really interested in you. There's way easier and tastier things to eat than human. You almost for sure won't see one, but if you do, don't taunt them or tempt them, and you'll be fine!
posted by Kololo at 7:22 PM on July 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

My experience is Rockies as well, but I wouldn't be worried about bears. Don't do anything stupid: if you're lucky enough to see a bear, don't approach them, try to feed them, etc. If you're in your car, stay in your car. Don't get between momma and her cubs.

Black bears, like you guys have out there, are generally as afraid of people as we are of them. Follow the park's bear safety rules and you will be fine. For extra credit, stop off in a visitor centre and ask if there were any recent bear sightings near the trail. The wardens will know. If you're super duper worried, you can pick up bear spray at MEC or somewhere; just make sure you know how to actually use it.

But, if you're going from Toronto, you're probably ten thousand (10,000x) times more likely to be killed in a car accident on the way to or from the park than a bear attack in the park. (Back of the envelope. If you want, I can show my math.) So drive safely, too.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 7:39 PM on July 1, 2012

A revolver in some wrist snapping caliber. It works!
posted by colinshark at 8:17 PM on July 1, 2012

I went to camp in Algonquin Park for several years - keeping food in cabins was verboten because of bears, and several times we had to be evacuated from our living spaces because the bears were seen sniffing around them (I saw them!) I'd contact the park and ask how to handle your concerns.
posted by 41swans at 8:41 PM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My town is packed with bears. Black bears, on the whole, are quite wary of humans and will try to avoid you, especially when there are two of you. One of the best things you can do to keep safe in bear country is to make some noise so they know you are there. I put a bell on my dog and on me. Remember that during rainy weather or near running water, your noise will be masked. A startled bear is more likely to do something stupid. I've done a LOT of hiking, almost daily really, and I do run into bears, although not very often. Really, running into a bear is not a super scary thing so don't worry too much.
posted by Foam Pants at 8:47 PM on July 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I also went to summer camp in Algonquin Park for several years. If I remember correctly, the park services there were pretty good about warning when there had been bear activity in an area. Just check in with them before you leave (which you may have to do anyway, for permit purposes) and read their bear safety site: http://www.algonquinpark.on.ca/visit/recreational_activites/black-bear-safety-rules.php

I was there for seven summers, and about 10 canoe trips/hiking trips, and in all that time, I saw a bear once.
posted by dithmer at 9:06 PM on July 1, 2012

I camped just one night in Algonquin five years ago. It was the scariest night of my life...

With my wife, I canoed into the park for 4 or 5 hours, and also being wary of bears, hoped to find a campsite on an island. By the time dark was approaching it became clear that all the island campsites were taken. We had to set up camp on a peninsula sticking out into the lake.

We put up the tent, grilled our sausages on the fire, and then as per instructions, hoisted all our food way up into a tree. About 3am my wife woke me up saying "Can you here something?". Sure enough there was the sound of something breathing outside the tent. Long deep resonant slow breaths. I have a little bit of experience from camping near lions in South Africa and Botswana, but I was terrified. My wife asks very very quietly "What should we do?", and as calmly as I could, I replied "Absolutely nothing".

We lay huddled in the tent, trying not to breathe ourselves while something scattered our cooking pots, and raked through our ashes. In the morning we woke up very glad to be alive, and could never really figure out if it was really a bear, or just an angry beaver.
posted by roofus at 1:54 AM on July 2, 2012

Best answer: I hike in black bear country nearly daily, and hear and see them on a rare basis. They run from you if they hear you. (Hiking as a pair, people usually talk, so I've never seen one that way.) I have surprised one or two, and found myself near a cub with no momma in sight--which was a bit worrisome, since I knew she was probably somewhere I couldn't see.

My go-to response is to speak in a calm not-too-loud voice to the bear so that bear knows exactly where I am as I retreat slowly. "Why hello bear, it's okay bear, I'm leaving now bear, here I go bear...." until I feel that I've gone far enough.
posted by RedEmma at 11:07 AM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

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