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74810

Bear Safety in Newfoundland: Spotting Signs and Staying Safe on the East Coast Trail

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Newfoundland Bear Safety

Newfoundland has a lot of Black Bears and Polar Bears. The Labrador straight, for example, boasts one of the largest and healthiest polar bear populations in the world. Black bears are found throughout the province and are always being spotted in areas previously thought to be bear free. A few years ago near Whale House in the Witless Bay Marine Ecological Reserve, there were several reports of a Polar Bear spotted near the east coast trail.

When travelling in the Newfoundland Backcountry, it’s important to remember you’re also travelling through bear habitat. Newfoundland bear encounters can happen at any time. Being prepared is the best thing you can do when planning travel through Newfoundland bear habitat.

Newfoundland Polar Bear Attacks

Newfoundland Polar Bear Encounters are most likely to occur in the spring when the icebergs are in and during sea ice conditions. Newfoundlanders have been killed when attacked by polar bears in Newfoundland. Just ask any elder in any Newfoundland coastal community about Newfoundland polar bears and Newfoundland bear attacks. They will tell you stories of Newfoundland bear encounters that’ll have you sitting on the edge of your seat and hanging on their every word. 

“That’s ok, I already know everything I need to know about Newfoundland Bear Safety.”

Even if you’re a seasoned hiker that’s travelled through bear habitat in the past, keeping a few particulars in mind about Newfoundland bear safety and how to stay alive in Newfoundland bear habitat can go a long way. Bear encounters in Newfoundland often go down differently than you would imagine.

Newfoundland Polar Bear Safety

Yes, polar bears are a thing in Newfoundland. Being aware during polar bear season is the best way to avoid a Newfoundland Polar Bear Encounter.

Depending on where you visit and the time of year, hiring a local guide and carrying a rifle may be prudent. There is a big difference between backcountry travel along northern coastal Labrador and cruising the shoreline of the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve near the Tinker’s Point East Coast Trail Hike during iceberg season. If you see a polar bear, go the other direction and seek safety. Polar bears are the top predator, so don’t get any cute and cuddly ideas. They are not your buddy.

Newfoundland Black Bear Attacks

Black Bears and Polar Bears can be found in Newfoundland and documented attacks are all over the internet. Black bears inhabit most of Newfoundland and Labrador, so you shouldn’t be surprised if you encounter one, no matter where you go explore. Some areas like Terra Nova National Park and Gros Morne National Park boast dense populations. It’s important to remember there have also been sighting of both black bears and polar bears in most areas of Newfoundland, so any wilderness  area is also a bear area.

What some people say you should do if you encounter a bear when hiking in Newfoundland:

  1. If you see a bear, back away and go a separate direction. DO NOT RUN. If the bear has not noticed you, perfect, and if it has, that’s cool too, just back away and give space.
  2. If the bear sees you and starts walking towards you, keep slowly backing away and out your hands up to look big while you say “woah bear”. 
  3. If the bear starts to get really close or run towards you, stop and yell “woah bear” with your hands up, back back in the air. If you have bear spray and the bear is within 20 feet of you, use the bear spray now. 
  4. If the bear attacks you, fight the bear. Use bear spray, weapons, go for the nose. DO NOT GIVE UP

Newfoundland Black Bear Safety Tips

1: keep food secure and away from your tent, ideally in a bear proof food cash some distance away 

2: make noise when hiking. Surprising bears can have a negative effect 

3: carry bear spray and know how to use it. Bear spray is an effective proven deterrent and has fended off Newfoundland bear attacks in the past.

Newfoundland’s rugged beauty attracts hikers and nature lovers from all over, especially to trails like the East Coast Trail

At Whale House Guest House and Boutique Hotel, the stunning East Coast Trail offers guests unparalleled hiking experiences. Although bear sightings are rare, it’s crucial to know how to spot signs of bears in Newfoundland and what to do if you encounter one. Let’s ensure your adventure is both thrilling and safe.

Spotting Signs of Bears

Bears are elusive animals, often preferring to avoid human contact. However, there are several signs that can indicate their presence:

  1. Footprints: Bear tracks are distinctive. Look for large paw prints with five toes and visible claw marks. Black bear tracks can measure up to 6 inches long.
  2. Scat: Bear droppings are another clear sign. They are usually large and tubular, often containing remnants of berries, seeds, and fur.
  3. Scratch Marks: Bears often scratch trees to mark their territory. Look for vertical claw marks on tree trunks.
  4. Bear Trails: Bears create well-worn paths through vegetation. These trails can often be identified by bent grasses or disturbed underbrush.
  5. Fresh Kill: Bears sometimes leave parts of their prey behind. If you encounter a fresh kill, it’s a strong indicator that a bear may be nearby.

What to the experts tell you to do when encountering a Newfoundland bear?

If you spot a bear or signs of one, here’s how to handle the situation according to experts we asked:

  1. Stay Calm: Keep your composure. Bears usually want to avoid human interaction.
  2. Don’t Run: Running can trigger a chase response. Instead, back away slowly while facing the bear.
  3. Make Yourself Big: Raise your arms or a jacket to appear larger. Speak in a calm, firm voice.
  4. Avoid Eye Contact: Direct eye contact can be perceived as a threat. Instead, look at the bear’s feet.
  5. Give It Space: Ensure the bear has a clear escape route. Bears feel threatened if they are cornered.
  6. Use Bear Spray: If the bear approaches, use bear spray as a deterrent. Aim for the bear’s face, and be ready to use it when the bear is within 20-30 feet.

Staying Safe on the East Coast Trail

To minimize the risk of bear encounters:

  1. Hike in Groups: Bears are less likely to approach larger groups.
  2. Make Noise: Talk, sing, or clap hands periodically to alert bears of your presence.
  3. Store Food Properly: Keep food and scented items in bear-proof containers or hang them from a tree.
  4. Keep Pets Leashed: Unleashed pets can provoke bears and lead them back to you.
  5. Stay on Trails: Bears are more common in dense forests and off-trail areas.

While bear sightings near Whale House Guest House are rare, knowing how to identify signs and handle encounters is crucial for your safety. Enjoy the beauty of Newfoundland’s East Coast Trail with peace of mind by staying informed and prepared. Happy hiking!

FAQs

What should I do if I see bear tracks on the trail? If you spot bear tracks, it’s best to make noise and stay alert. Bears typically avoid humans, so by making your presence known, you’re likely to deter them.

Can bear spray harm the bear? Bear spray is a non-lethal deterrent designed to temporarily irritate the bear’s eyes and respiratory system, giving you time to retreat. It doesn’t cause permanent harm.

Is it safe to hike alone on the East Coast Trail? While hiking in groups is safer, if you must hike alone, make plenty of noise, stay on marked trails, and carry bear spray.

How common are bear encounters on the East Coast Trail? Bear encounters are rare, but it’s always best to be prepared and know what to do if you see one.

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Whale House Guest House offers luxury boutique private suites with outdoor hot tubs overlooking humpback whale feeding grounds. Located next to the east coast trail in the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, just 30 min from downtown St. John’s.

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