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Essential Bear Safety Tips for Alberta Travellers

Planning a trip to the awe-inspiring Rocky Mountains? Well, hold onto your hiking boots, because we've got some essential travel tips to share with you. Our campervan renters often ask questions like, "How do you use bear spray?" and "What are the most effective ways to stay safe in bear country?" It's natural to be curious about bear encounters when you're exploring this magnificent wilderness. And believe us when we say Alberta is magnificent! That's why we're here, eager to arm you with the knowledge you need to venture confidently into Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise, Kananaskis, and so on. But, more importantly, have the adventure of a lifetime.

Morant's curve Alberta with a black bear near the train tracks

Bear spray is like a safety blanket in that it's a boost of confidence that can help you feel prepared for anything. In fact, we include bear spray with all our camper van rentals. But, if we’re being honest, this should be your last line of defense. We're all about embracing the wild, but we also want to ensure the safety of both you and these incredible creatures that call the Canadian Rockies home. So, along with mastering bear spray, we'll discuss other important actions you can take to coexist harmoniously and keep the happy camper vibes going.

The safety of our renters is one of our top priorities. After all, there's nothing quite like hitting the open road in a cozy campervan, camping among nature's grandeur and waking up to breathtaking views. We've personally spent countless nights under the stars, sipping hot cocoa by the campfire, and embracing the true spirit of adventure. That's why we're thrilled to share our local knowledge with you, so you can fully embrace the magic of the Rockies while respecting the untamed beauty that surrounds you.

Roadside Bear Safety

When it comes to encountering a bear for the first time, it's likely that you drive alongside one.

These animals have a huge appetite for natural “delights” like grass, dandelions, and berries. And guess what? The roadside happens to be a treasure trove of these delectable treats. As a result, you'll often witness cars parked with their hazard lights blinking (insider tip: Highway 1A is a great spot for wildlife viewing and iconic photo spots including Morants Curve)

Now, let's discuss safety because it cannot be emphasized enough in these situations.

  • Stay inside your camper van: it is crucial to remain inside your vehicle. Your car provides a protective barrier that significantly reduces the risk of harm.

  • Do not approach the bear: under no circumstances should you attempt to approach the bear. They are gentle creatures when left alone. Problems arise when they feel threatened.

  • Keep your distance: Respect its space, and observe from a safe vantage point. Maintaining a respectful distance is paramount. So, with caution in mind, stay vigilant, and take in the awe-inspiring sight of these magnificent creatures while ensuring your safety.

Safety For Everyone

It's crucial to know that these instructions are also for the well-being of the bears themselves.

When one poses a threat to human safety, parks and authorities will relocate it but sometimes euthanize the animal. Therefore, while it may be tempting to take risks or engage in potentially harmful interactions, it's important to recognize that such actions place both you and the bear in jeopardy.

Respecting the boundaries and maintaining a safe distance ensures that bears can continue to thrive in their natural habitat without being pushed into dangerous situations.

Signs of Bear Activity

Critical grizzly area sign in Kananaskis, AB

In critical bear areas, campers, hikers, and runners have unfortunately found themselves alongside bears due to accidental encounters. These incidents often occur because individuals are not fully attentive to their surroundings.

It is important to remain vigilant and keep a keen eye out for signs of bear presence in the area.


One crucial aspect of bear awareness is recognizing the signs that bears leave behind. Tracks, for instance, can provide valuable insights into recent their activity. Take note of paw prints or indentations in the ground, as they indicate that one has passed through the area.

Bear Poop

Droppings, also known as scat, are another clear indication of bear presence. These droppings may contain remnants of berries or other food sources, offering further evidence of recent activity.

Their poop changes throughout the season and depends on their current diet.

They actually have a similar digestive system to humans. This means the scat is tubular similar to humans with a range of digested and undigested bits. Plus, considering how much time bears spend eating, their poop is fairly large.

Here’s an excellent article about “The Scoop on Bear Poop

Turned over Earth

Additionally, keep an eye out for diggings—areas where bears have excavated the ground in search of food or other resources. Torn-up logs and turned-over rocks are telltale signs of bears foraging for insects, grubs, or small mammals. These visual cues serve as important indicators that bears have recently been in the vicinity.

By remaining attentive and actively looking for these signs, hikers and runners can increase their awareness of potential bear encounters. Being aware of bear activity allows for a proactive approach, enabling individuals to adjust their routes or take necessary precautions and minimize the risk of a surprise encounter.

Bear Safety & Prevention Tactics

As we mentioned before, the bear spray is your last option. Avoidance of encounters is actually your best bet.

Here are a few considerations for your next adventure:

  • Make Noise and Be Vocal: Let animals know you're in the vicinity. It's important to make plenty of noise, whether it's calling out, clapping, singing, or engaging in lively conversation.

  • ​​Stay Alert for Fresh Bear Signs: Keep a keen eye out for any recent indications of bear activity as we mentioned above.

  • Keep Your Dog Leashed: Ensure your furry friends are always on a leash or consider leaving them at home. Unrestrained dogs can provoke defensive behavior in bears, which can lead to dangerous situations.

  • Stay in Larger Groups: Parks Canada recommends hiking in groups of four or more. The larger the group, the lower the likelihood of a serious bear encounter. Remember, never allow children to wander off on their own.

  • Stick to Officially Marked Paths and Trails: When venturing into bear country, it's best to stay on marked paths and trails. These routes are designed to minimize human-wildlife conflicts and ensure your safety. Furthermore, it's advisable to schedule your hikes during daylight hours to enhance visibility and reduce potential risks.

  • Maintain a Clean Campground: Dispose of your garbage in specially crafted bins or store it in the camper van itself until you find one. These types of garbages have almost child-lock handles that you push to open. Food and garbage are the leading attractants for bear encounters.

Using Bear Spray

So let’s say you’re in the mountains, and you do meet a bear. Typically, they’re more interested in eating their berries or grass. Your best bet is to walk away backward slowly and calmly. Speak softly and make yourself look big.

For the most part, bears just want to be left alone.

But what happens when a bear is aggressively approaching you? Well, now you get out that bear spray. Remember: your spray should be easily accessible at all times.

The purpose is not actually to spray the bear but create a pepper spray wall or barrier between you.

With that in mind, follow these steps:

  • Hold the bottle far away from your face with a straight arm

  • Unclip the safety: All bear spray bottles have a safety piece that prevents you from spraying accidentally.

  • Aim at the bear's face

  • Spray in short bursts: Basically, don’t empty your entire bottle in one shot. You want to send short bursts like a fire extinguisher and have some left in the bottle if he persists.

  • Leave the area immediately: this stuff is designed to make a large animal uncomfortable. Best believe you will be, too.

And That’s Bear Safety While Camping

When it comes to bear encounters in Alberta, whether on the roadside or in the wilderness, prioritizing safety is paramount. Bears are magnificent creatures that deserve our respect and space. By following a few simple guidelines and being aware of bear activity, we can minimize the risks and coexist responsibly with these remarkable animals.

Mealtime in the Rocky Mountains on a camper van road trip

Bear spray is among the many things we include in our campervan rentals. So, if you find yourself in a situation where a bear is aggressively approaching you, you are well prepared.

By practicing these safety measures and respecting Canadian wildlife, we can enjoy the beauty of the bear country while ensuring the well-being of both ourselves and the bears.

And if you do have any questions about wildlife safety, van life packing lists, or recommended tourist attractions in Alberta and British Columbia, New Age Travel and Services is only a phone call away.

Book your campervan rental today and experience the magic.


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