What do you do if you see a black bear or a grizzly bear far away? Easy. Give them their space.
But what if you turn the corner and there’s a black bear or a grizzly bear coming in your direction? You should be prepared just in case.
There are different approaches to each type of bear situation and knowing the difference between a defensive attack versus a predatory attack is critical.
Parks Canada provides several resources that will keep you bear-aware and ready to enjoy the Canadian Rockies:
The other thing to think about it bear spray. Parks Canada suggests it. I don’t think it is necessary if you are only going on short hikes on the most popular tourist-heavy short-and-easy trails, like the Johnston Canyon trail in Banff National Park or Maligne Canyon in Jasper National Park. The other thing about bear spray is that it is pretty much the same as pepper spray and you can’t take it on airplanes, even in checked-in bags, so be aware. It is also expensive at around $40 or $50 in local sporting good stores (in towns of Banff and Jasper within the parks).
Me, I’m planning several longer day hikes this summer in the Canadian Rockies. I have a bear bell instead. I hate listening to it but may have it ready for remote trails. I’ll also visit parks information centers to find out about current trail conditions as there is good info on wildlife activity levels at the info centers.
Beyond bears, it is equally important to be aware of the elk. Elk seem harmless but can be aggressive and are a bigger source of conflict to the uninformed tourist who doesn’t give the elk their space.