When visiting “Bear Country” there is a good chance you’ll get a glimpse of one of these majestic creatures. Whether you take a bear viewing tour or just happen upon one while on the trail, there are some things you should know.
If you do spot a bear during your visit to Whistler, it will likely be a black bear, as they account for the highest number of sightings. Black bears are the most common of the three bears found in British Columbia, with the others being Grizzly and Kermode, a subspecies of the black bear.
Black bears, which are most active between April and November, are smaller than grizzlies and, despite their name, may have black, brown or white fur.
It’s estimated about 50 black bears make their home in the forests and mountains surrounding Whistler Village. Visitors report black bears coming right into Whistler Village early in the morning, between 5 and 6 a.m. This is prime bear-watching time when bears are searching for food. Tip: Don’t leave food in your vehicle overnight. Bears have been known to sneak a snack or two…and may cause damage to your car.
A family of bears is known to make its home near the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, so keep a look out from the chair lift. Sightings have also been reported this summer along local trails, like the Pemberton Valley Trail located about 20 miles northeast of Whistler.
Keep an eye out while on the golf course as well, as bears have been known to amble onto a green, particularly in the spring.
Speaking of sightings, a grizzly was spotted in a residential area of Whistler in late April, according to the Conservation Officer Service. While not as common as black bears, grizzly bears have been seen in the Whistler area.
The grizzly was reportedly seen on Crabapple Drive in Whistler Cay, which is on the west side of Whistler in an area close to lush vegetation, a field coordinator for the Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative told Pique news magazine.
While grizzlies are not as common to spot as black bears, experts have expected an increase in the local population. The reduction of human activity due to COVID-19 could also be a factor as bears venture further into the valley than normal.
An estimated eight adult grizzly bears are known to live in the Callaghan area, while a report indicates about 60 grizzly bears in the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, which includes Whistler. After the Alpine Trail Network opened in 2017, parts of it had to be closed when two separate groups of hikers had run-ins with grizzly bears.
If you do spot a bear, be smart with these tips:
• View from a distance. Do not approach it. The Whistler Insider recommends at least seven school buses of space between you and the bear. Give the bear an escape route.
• Talk or sing to avoid surprising a bear.
• Be aware of surroundings and do not wear headphones while hiking, biking or running in bear country.
• Avoid hiking alone.
• Never, ever feed bears or leave food somewhere they might be able to access it. Not only is it dangerous to feed a bear (for you and the bear), it is also a violation of the B.C. Wildlife Act. Remember: Pack out what you pack in. There are consequences to the bear if they find a visitor’s “food rewards.” Bears are sometimes relocated, however, if further incidents occur, the bear may be put down by the Conservation Officer Service. Please ensure your safety and the bear’s safety by not leaving food out.
• Keep your barbecue clean during your stay and scrape or burn off remaining food bits after a meal has been cooked on it to avoid attracting bears.
• If a bear does approach you, remain calm. Speak to it calmly and slowly move to the side giving the bear an escape route.
• Do not look it in the eyes and do not run. This may encourage the bear to chase you and they are much faster than humans.
• Carry bear spray and be able to access it.
• Keep pets leashed and under control. Dogs were involved in more than half of black bear inflected injuries on humans.
• Report urban environment sightings to the Conservation Officer Service at 604-905-BEAR.
During your stay with Blackcomb Peaks, book a Whistler Bear Viewing Tour. It’s the best way to observe these majestic creatures. The 4x4 vehicle tours typically run Sept. 1 through Oct. 15 with morning and afternoon excursions.