In Canada, the major species of bear are the North American brown bear (also known affectionately as the grizzly), the black bear, the Kermode bear, and the polar bear. Each of these types of bears are different from each other whether it’s their habits, behavior or appearance as any traveler could spot the differences. Bears thrive in Canada as the Canada is a country where the wildlife outnumbers the human occupants. Canada is home to around 60% of the world’s bear population.
Polar bear (Ursus maritimus)
The Polar bears are also referred as Pihoqahiak, “the ever-wandering one” by the Inuit poetry. Polar bears spend their most of the year at sea, hunting the seals which is their main dietary staple, for which they can swim and run long distances as well.
Although, Polar bears appear to be white, but they are not. Their skin is black and is covered with dense underfur, which is protected by an outer coat of hollow, translucent guard hairs. There was also a theory associated with the Polar bears that their guard hairs acted as fiber-optic cables, conducting light to the bear’s black skin, where it could be absorbed to maintain body heat, but this theory was disproved later in 1998. While, when kept above 10 degrees temperature, polar bears become overheated. If Polar bears are kept in warm and moist environment, particularly in captivity, because of algae growing inside the hollow tubes, their outer hairs might turn green.
Black bear (Ursus americanus)
World’s most common bear species and the most widely distributed bear species in the North America is the American black bear. Black bears primarily live in forests. But sometimes in the search of food, they also visit the human communities. They have short, sharp, curved claws. Their claws work as an important tool to their survival as they assist them with climbing trees, in case they need to escape the predators, find food, and sleep. To communicate among each other’s, Black bears have a large vocabulary and use a variety of hums, grunts, and other vocalizations.
In the search of food, these bears occupy a range of anywhere from five square kilometers to more than 10,000 square kilometers. To mark their territory, Black bears rub their bodies against trees and claw at the barks.
Kermode (Spirit) bear (Ursus americanus kermodei)
The Kermode bear, or “Spirit Bear,” is a subspecies of the American black bear. Kermode bears are primarily found in the Central and North Coast regions of British Columbia. Kermode bears are not albinos, nor are they related to polar bears, Contrary to the popular beliefs. Kermode bears have a double recessive gene which is unique to this subspecies and this gene causes their whitish-cream coloring.
As per some studies, white bears are 30 percent more effective than their black counterparts at catching salmon during the day because of their lack of coloring which makes them less visible to the fish.
Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis)
The grizzly bear is a North American subspecies of the brown bear and not a distinctive species. Its Latin name, Ursus horribilis, means “terrifying bear” which is a reference to its character; when threatened, grizzlies are more likely to attack than flee. 70 percent of human deaths caused due to grizzly attacks are by the mother grizzlies defending their cubs.
Initially, Grizzly bears were found from Alaska to Mexico and as far east as the western shores of Hudson Bay but gradually, the hunting and habitat loss pushed them north and west. Right now, approximately 20,000 bears live in Canada, most of them in the British Columbia, which has made substantial efforts to protect them.
Grizzly bears are quite heavy and huge in size as the largest grizzly ever recorded, weighed around 1,200 pounds and was 10 feet high when standing. Grizzlies have a social hierarchy, with adult males at the top, and teenage bears at the bottom
Which is the best place to find bears in Canada?
Because Canada has a substantial number of bears, there are many areas where people can visit and easily spot one of these spectacular creatures. One such great place is British Columbia which is a hub of these creatures. In British Columbia, One can easily reach The Great Bear Rainforest by sailing and can stay in a secluded wilderness lodge. This place is remote and beautiful and a home to many other wildlife species as well, such as wolves and orcas. Even spirit bears can also be found in this area as the temperature in the rainforest is perfect for them. The other prime locations to find bears in British Columbia are Vancouver Island, Bella Coola Valley, Haida Gwaii and Knight Inlet.
What do bears eat in Canada?
The bears are Omnivorous. They have a mixed diet, which includes plants, fruits, nuts, and insects, additionally they also opt for small mammals and birds. In Canada, because of the numerous rivers, these could be spotted enjoying salmon fishes as well on the countryside.
Bears are known for their opportunistic nature, which is where the famous stories of bears taking the odd picnic basket come from. However, to witness their natural diet, it is best to view them in their natural habitat. For example, at the end of August into September, the salmon run provides the best opportunity for one of the most iconic bears viewing experiences.
When is the best time to go bear watching in Canada?
It is best to visit Canada between the late spring and autumn to get a chance to see bears like the grizzly and black bear. The coming of salmon in early autumn also offers a great buffet for grizzlies and brown bears alike, as well as the more mysterious Kermode bear. The best time for seeing polar bears is a short window from mid-October to mid-November.
If you cross the path with Grizzly Bears, it’s important to know what to do
Both, Grizzly bears and black bears don’t like surprises and like to stay away from humans. So, it is better to be loud, to make noise, can even attach a small tinkling bell on your belt, while going through such forests where bears could be found. It is also advised to not to explore the dark, unknown caves or hollow logs, as these are the major places to come across grizzly bears. If anyone ever stay for the night in such places where bears could easily come, it is best to pick up all the garbage and cooking supplies and to clean up thoroughly after a meal outside. Bears have a strong sense of smell and can pick up easily a scent, a mile off. It is best to secure food overnight by hanging it in the air from a tree branch, while camping in the backcountry.
If you have been spotted by a bear, stop and don’t move
In such situations, one can easily lose their patience because of fear but it is best to stay calm and to speak to the bear in a low calm voice and then to slowly raise your arms in the air, making yourself appear bigger. It is advisable to not to look the bear in the eyes and if carrying a torch, it is better to throw the torch light directly into their eyes, which could also scare them away.
It is better to tuck away the camera and leave this for a time when you’re inside a car. The most dangerous are the mother bears with the cubs so it is best to leave quickly, If you ever encounter one. At that time the Mother bear’s main priority would be to protect her cubs, leaving no room for negotiation if she will feel threatened. It is better to back off slowly, retrace your footsteps and avoiding crossing the path of the bear.