This page was updated 4 March 2020.
Here I provide a list of some of the literature and other resources that I use when I’m teaching people about living, working, and recreating safely in bear country.
As John Hechtel states in Staying Safe in Bear Country: a Behavioral Based Approach to Reducing Risk, a DVD by the Staying Safe in Bear Country Society
“The best way to minimize conflicts with bears is by practicing prevention. Though bears are forgiving of almost all human behavior by following some simple rules you can reduce your chances of encountering a bear, and just as important, of attracting one. But despite the best precautions, you still may occasionally meet a bear. Bears often display many of the same types of behaviors toward humans that they use with each other, therefore, the safest way to reduce risk during an encounter is to have knowledge and understanding of their behavior and motivation. You should be able to anticipate the most common situations where you might encounter bears and it’s a good idea to mentally practice how you should respond.This knowledge and preparation can empower you to act appropriately around bears and avoid an attack. You have control over most of the important factors that determine your safety”
People often ask me to tell them my scariest bear stories. So here goes, with the intention of providing a personal perspective for a bit of context:
I’ve lived and recreated in bear country most of my life. I’ve worked in bear country, often doing grizzly bear or black bear related work, for two and a half decades. Since I learned about bears and bear safety through my work, I consider myself to have been diligent about preventing undesirable interactions with bears. I’ve never had a serious incident with a bear, but I’ve had some close calls.
The two times I really screwed up—by not behaving appropriately to prevent encounters with grizzly bears given conditions that I knew were exposing me to much greater risk—the grizzly bears that I surprised, at close proximity, startled and fled. I was lucky that neither the solo bear nor the mother with cubs reacted defensively, in which case I would have used my bear spray, my next line of defense. In both incidents, I was mulling over the foolishness of our behaviour to myself, while my partners were oblivious (one with headphones on, the other new to bears) to the evidence that was screaming at me to act accordingly.
In another potentially serious encounter, my work partner and I had to challenge a grizzly bear that walked right up to our tent and stood staring through the bug screen at us. We responded by sitting up (which made it step back), scrambling out of the tent (which made it step back a bit further), and then yelling, looking big, throwing rocks, and launching several bear bangers. It felt like forever for that bear to turn away from us, sauntering across the wild Arctic tundra, under the midnight sun. I think back on this event and I wonder why we didn’t use bear spray.
And then twice, I’ve probably avoided bumbling into grizzly bears feeding on or guarding ungulate carcasses, a particularly dangerous situation that can potentially be difficult or impossible to detect and avoid. In the first, I was bushwhacking through forest when I caught the stench of something dead. I stopped and peered through the forest ahead. There I saw an ungulate carcass with organic debris pulled on top of it, and the ground scrapped up around it. In the second, I was also bushwhacking through forest when I heard the quocking calls of ravens. I stopped and searched ahead, and saw another heaped disturbance that was probably also a large carcass. Both times, I was busy searching for the telemetry locations that radio-collared grizzly bears had been at. Both times, we backed away slowly and quietly to a safer distance in the direction we had just come from, and then we turned to hike out. A bear, or bears, feeding on a carcass of a large mammal is a situation that exposes bear researchers and hunters to greater risk, particularly in grizzly bear country.
I think that’s about it for heart racing stories about encounters with free ranging bears. I’ve long considered my risk of being harmed by a bear to be much lower than the risks that I’ve been subjecting myself to by driving motor vehicles and flying in helicopters and small, fixed-wing aircraft, or more recently by riding my bicycle through the Americas, where again a major risk factor was being exposed to drivers.
You might also want to note that I’m sometimes accompanied by less bear savvy people who comment, and sometimes even complain, that I’m too noisy when when we’re hiking! What they fail to see, hear or smell, and take heed of are the warning signs. Hey bear!
Bear Awareness and Safety DVDs
Staying Safe in Bear Country: a behavioral-based approach to reducing risk. Revised 2008. Safety in Bear Country Society. Produced by Wild Eye Productions, Atlin, B.C. in association with AV Action Yukon Ltd. DVD is available for purchase for personal use here. Script for the DVD is available here.
Working in Bear Country: for industrial managers, supervisors and workers. 2001. Safety in Bear Country Society. Produced by Wild Eye Productions, Atlin, B.C. in association with AV Action Yukon Ltd. DVD is available for purchase for personal use here.
Living in Bear Country. 2005. Safety in Bear Country Society. Produced by Wild Eye Productions, Atlin, B.C. in association with AV Action Yukon Ltd. DVD is available for purchase for personal use here.
DVDs with a digital license can be purchased from Magic Lantern Media here.
The Yukon Territorial Government has a great brochure based on Staying Safe in Bear Country Society information. It’s also available in French and German.
Herrero, Stephen. 2018. Bear attacks: their causes and avoidance. Third Edition. Lyons Press. Lanham, MD.
Masterson, Linda. 2016. Living with Bears Handbook. Expanded 2nd Edition. PixyJack Press Inc. Masonville, CO.
Bear Research and Management Websites
Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. Website:
- The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) has a bear-resistant productions testing program, including a bear-resistant products testing protocol.
- This website provides information on recreating in grizzly country, living in grizzly country, bear spray, bear-resistant productions, resources for bear safety, and bear viewing.
- It also lists websites with bear identification information and tests.
International Association for Bear Research and Management (IBA). Website: http://www.bearbiology.com
“The International Association for Bear Research and Management (IBA) is a non-profit tax-exempt organization open to professional biologists, wildlife managers and others dedicated to the conservation of all bear species. The organization has over 550 members from over 50 countries. It supports the scientific management of bears through research and distribution of information. The IBA sponsors international conferences on all aspects of bear biology, ecology and management. Many of the conference papers are published as peer-reviewed scientific papers in the journal Ursus.”
Here are some references for journal articles that might be of interest if you want to know some of the research that has been done to support bear awareness and safety initiatives:
Bear Habituation to People
Herrero, S. T. Smith, T.D. DeBruyn, K. Gunther, and C. Matt. 2005. From the field: brown bear habituation to people—safety, risks, and benefits. Wildlife Society Bulletin 33(1):362–373.
Smith, T.S., S. Herrero, and T.D. DeBruyn. 2005. Alaskan brown bears, humans, and habituation. Ursus 16(1):1–10.
Smith, T.S., S. Herrero, T.D. DeBruyn, J.M. Wilder. 2006. Efficacy of bear deterrent spray in Alaska. The Journal of Wildlife Management. 72(3):640–645.
Smith, T.S., J. Gookin, B.G. Hopkins, S.H. Thompson. 2018. Portable electric fencing for bear deterrence and conservation. Human–Wildlife Interactions 12(3):309–321
Hopkins, J.B. III, S. Herrero, T.T. Shideler, K.A. Gunter, C.C. Schwartz, S.T. Kalinowski. 2010. A proposed lexicon of terms and concepts for human–bear management in North America. Ursus 21(2):154–168.
Human Impacts on Bears
Mattson, D. 2009. Human impacts on bear habitat use. International Association of Bear Research and Management 8:33–56.
Human Injuries Inflicted by Bears
Herrero, S. and A. Higgins. 1999. Human injuries inflicted by bears in British Columbia: 1960–97. Ursus 11:209–218.
Herrero, S. and A. Higgins. 2003. Human injuries inflicted by bears in Alberta: 1960–98. Ursus 14:44–54.
Smith, T.S. and Herrero, S. 2018. Human–bear conflict in Alaska: 1880–2015. Wildlife Societ Bulletin, 42: 254-263.
Bear and Human Coexistence
Sanders, G.L. 2013. Coexistence: the human/grizzly bear interface in a rural community of British Columbia. Masters of Arts in Environmental Education, Royal Roads University, Victoria, B.C.
Bear Smart Communities
Note: As a co-author of the second reports, I consider the following to be outdated for management or other application purposes. Much has been learned and written about community-based interactions between bears and people since 2002.
Ciarniello, L.M. 1997. Reducing human–bear conflicts: solutions through better management of non-natural foods. Unpublished report prepared for the Bear–Human Conflict Committee, Pollution Prevention and Remediation Branch, Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, Victoria, BC.
Davis, H., D. Wellwood, and L. Ciarniello. 2002. “Bear Smart” community program: background report. B.C. Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, Victoria, B.C.