Slow and Steady Hikers Message Board › Why not bear bells? and some basic information
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Kananaskis officials say bear bells are ineffective
Despite the fact that bells people strap to their daypacks as a noisemaker to warn off bears are sold in large numbers at outdoor stores in Calgary, they are not effective on the trails of Kananaskis, according to a Kananaskis area official.
Duane Fizor, the information services co-ordinator for Kananaskis Country, said Calgarians visiting the mountains for hiking, horseback riding or cross-country skiing, could be close to a bear so it’s important to be prepared but added that it is a myth that the small bells are effective.
“They don’t work at all and we don’t recommend them because they’re not loud enough,” Fizor said regarding the use of bear bells in Kananaskis Country.
For many Calgarians, visiting the mountains is a year-round weekend activity. You never know when you could be close to a bear so it’s important to be prepared.
Although bear bells are ineffective, the myth that they attract bears and are so-called "dinner bells" is also busted. Rumours had spread that bears had become so used to the sound of these bells, that they would go towards them and get a free lunch from trail users’ daypacks.
This is not true, Fizor said even though the bears of Kananaskis Country are used to a human presence due to a high volume of visitors, they have not adapted to come to the noise of the bells.
There is always chance that you may come in contact, while on your excursions and it’s important to know what to do if this happens.
The first precaution to take is to lessen the chance of an encounter by simply making noise, which Fizor suggests is best done by using your voice, “especially using vowels because they travel through white noise such as wind and water.”
Fizor said bear bells can only be heard from approximately six feet away so a bear will see you long before it hears you and for years now these bells have been giving people a false sense of security.
Ken Cook a manager for Calgary Mountain Equipment Coop said the number of bear bells sold at their store is high. Cook mentions, “The more exposed a bear is to humans, means the bell becomes less effective.” Kananaskis is a busy area for human activity, meaning bear bells may have different results in other parts of Canada.
A former counsellor at Camp Chief Hector, Emily Gibson, said they relied on their large numbers during their hikes and never used bells or carried bear spray.
Even if your hollering “yo bear,” on the trails as Fizor suggests, and you still have an encounter with a bear the first thing to do is distinguish if it’s a grizzly or a black bear and most of all do not run. Fizor said that bears can run at about 100km/h in any terrain and the myth that they can’t run downhill is just that; another myth.
Distinguishing between the two kinds of bears has “nothing to do with color,” Fizor said. Grizzlies have a hump on their shoulder, small ears, and a round almost concave face. Black bears have no hump, pointy ears and a straight face. First of all Fizor suggests not making eye contact with a bear and avert your gaze to their chest because eye contact is threatening, remain calm and stay passive.
Bears will often bluff charge a few times as Fizor states, but if in the worst case scenario a bear actually makes contact know which type of bear you’re dealing with. If it’s a grizzly play dead, lying on your stomach with your hands behind your neck and legs spread to make it harder for the bear to flip you over.
Most grizzlies will attack and stop and eventually leave the person alone Fizor said and due to the difference in claws you can also try to climb a tree with a grizzly because they don’t have clipped claws like black bears do.
If a black bear comes in contact with you, do not climb a tree and do not play dead. Fizor said you physically have to fight back with whatever you’ve got, even if it’s just your fists.
Next time you’re heading out to the trails, Fizor said to make sure you carry bear spray on your hip, not in your pack and know how to use it, and visit the information centres to learn safety tips and find out if there were any recent sightings in the area.
Bears will smell you if you are downwind long before they hear you. That's why you never camp with food or anything with a smell in your tent. Besides being ineffective, bear bells are a huge annoyance to everyone on the trail.
I agree who wants to hear that annoying sound in the peaceful wilderness.