Bear Safety at Bowron Lake Provincial Park

Bears may be encountered throughout the park during the summer months. Although most bears are simply traveling through and make every effort to avoid humans, a bag of garbage or some unattended food on a picnic table may be irresistible to their keen sense of smell. Bears that scavenge food begin to associate food with humans, and become "food-conditioned". Food-conditioned bears lose their natural fear of humans and become a threat to park visitors as they roam through the park in search of an easy meal. Bears are not tame, gentle or cuddly; they are unpredictable and potentially dangerous.

There is little or no chance of correcting a food-conditioned bear and Park Rangers are forced to destroy them when they become aggressive towards humans. Don't be a contributor to food conditioning and remember...


There are some simple precautions you must take to prevent the food conditioning of bears and avoid dangerous bear encounters.

  • Never feed or approach bears or other wildlife.
  • Reduce or eliminate odours that attract bears
    Avoid strong smelling foods and perfumed toiletries.
  • Food Storage
    At the campground, store food in air-tight containers in your RV or car trunk. Since this is not an option while out on the Canoe Circuit, BC Parks provides bear-proof caches at all Bowron’s backcountry campsites and portage trailheads. Caches are large metal boxes with recessed handles.
    Bear-proof caches must be used at all times (when you are not actively paddling to a new site or cooking). This regulation will be strongly enforced by the park staff. Leave room for other visitors' food in the cache.
  • Pack out all your garbage. Store it with your food out of reach of bears. Do not bury garbage or throw into pit toilets. Only paper and wood may be burned: plastics, tinfoil, and food items do not burn completely, and the remains will attract bears (besides creating an unsightly mess).
  • Avoid fish smells -- they are a strong attractant for bears. Don’t clean fish in your campsite. Throw entrails into deep or fast-flowing water, and double-bag fishy-smelling garbage.
  • Cook and eat well away from your tent.
    • Clean up immediately and thoroughly. Never leave cooking utensils, coolers, grease or dish water lying around. Dispose of dish water by straining it then throwing it into a gray water pit or pit toilet. Solids should be packed out with the garbage.
    • The odours of cosmetics, toothpaste and insect repellent can attract bears. These should be stored out of reach with your food and garbage, never in your tent. Leave strongly perfumed items at home.
  • Always keep children nearby and in sight.
  • Always sleep in a tent -- not under the stars.
  • Hike the portages and trails as a group.
    • Solo hiking is not advised -- you reduce the risk of an attack by traveling together as a group. Do not let children wander.
  • Leave pets at home.
    • Free-running pets can anger a bear and provoke an attack, so they are not allowed on the Canoe Circuit. Keep pets leashed in the main campground.
  • Reduce the chance of surprising a bear.
    • Always check ahead for bears in the distance. If one is spotted, make a wide detour and leave the area immediately.
    • Do not approach bears on shore for a better view while paddling.
    • When travelling against the wind or near loud moving water, use extreme caution. Make loud warning sounds.
    • Watch for bear sign: tracks, droppings, overturned rocks, rotten trees torn apart, clawed, bitten or rubbed trees, bear trails, fresh diggings or trampled vegetation.
  • Stay clear of dead wildlife.
    • Take note of signs that may indicate carrion -- such as circling crows or ravens, or the smell of rotting meat.
    • Carcasses attract bears. Leave the area immediately!
    • Report the location of dead wildlife to Park staff.
  • Camp in designated areas.
    • Bear caches are provided at all designated sites.
  • In general:
    • Never approach or feed bears
    • If you have an encounter with a bear, please leave the area immediately and report it to park staff as soon as possible.
    • Obey all park regulations, stay on designated trails and comply with posted warnings.
    • Bear pepper sprays have been effective in deterring some bear attacks. However, do not use them as a substitute for safe practices in bear country. Know how to use them. Avoidance is still your best bet.
    • Other wildlife may pose a threat to park users. Moose can become very agitated and aggressive when approached too closely, particularly cows with calves. Please use binoculars and telephoto lenses for wildlife viewing.
Some Bear Facts:

  • Bears are as fast as racehorses, on the flats, uphill or downhill
  • Bears are strong swimmers.
  • Bears have good eyesight, good hearing, and an acute sense of smell.
  • All black bears and young grizzlies are agile tree climbers; mature grizzlies are poor climbers, but they have a reach up to 4 metres.
  • If a bear is standing up it is usually trying to identify you. Talk softly so it knows what you are. Move away, keeping it in view. Do not make direct eye contact.
Bear Identification:

Identifying bears is important if you are ever approached by one.

Black Bear  (Ursus americanus Pallas)

Colour: Varies. Black, brown, cinnamonbearblac.gif (930 bytes) or blond, often with a white patch on the chest or at the throat.

Height: Approximately 90 cm at the shoulder.

Weight: 57 kg to more than 270 kg. Females are usually smaller than males.

Characteristics:  Straight face profile; short, curved claws; barely noticeable shoulder hump

Habitat: Prefers forested areas with low-growing plants and berry-producing shrubs (e.g. small forest openings, stream or lake edges, open forest).

Grizzly Bear  (Ursus arctos horribilis Ord)

Colour: Varies. Black (rare), brown or blond. Fur often white-tipped or "grizzled". Light-coloured patches may occur around neck, shoulders and on rear flanks.

Height: Slightly above one metre at shoulder; 1.8 to 2.0 metres when erect.

Weight: 200 kg to more than 450 kg. Females are usually smaller than males.

Characteristics:  Dished or concave face long; curved claws; prominent shoulder hump

Habitat: Semi-open spaces preferred. High country in late summer and early fall; valley bottoms late fall and spring.