Be Bear Smart: Essential Tips for Safe Hiking and Camping

June 3, 2024 | Newcomer Information, Our blog

In collaboration with the Calgary Immigration Partnership (CLIP) and the Calgary Public Library, Gateway organized an event at the Central Public Library on Wednesday, June 19, 2024, in commemoration of this year’s World Refugee Day.

The event aimed to celebrate the strength and courage of refugees who had been forced to flee their home countries due to conflict or persecution.

During the event, Sarah Meilleur, the CEO of Calgary Public Library, welcomed the audience, highlighting that the library is often one of the first destinations for immigrants and refugees upon their arrival. This is because the library provides them with free services, including a membership card, access to Wi-Fi, computers, and printing facilities. Sarah commended the immigrant-serving agencies for their collaborative efforts in supporting refugees on their settlement journeys.

The Calgary Local Immigration Partnership (CLIP) coordinator, Dejana Knih, read the opening remarks and address from the Mayor of Calgary, Mayor Gondek. In her speech, Mayor Gondek thanked refugees who have made Calgary their new home for their resilience and contributions to the city.

After the mayor’s address, there was a film screening of “Struggling to Adapt: One Syrian Refugee Family’s Story” by CBC The National. The film showcased the settlement journey of a Syrian family of nine, including seven children and their parents, who had fled Syria due to conflict and arrived in Lethbridge, Alberta as refugees. The audience got a glimpse of the challenges the family faced, how they slowly adjusted to their new life in Canada, and their journey of learning English to improve their job prospects.

There was a moment of reflection for the audience to absorb the story of this family, which represented the experience of many refugees.

Following the screening, a panel discussion with subject matter experts from local support organizations was held. The panel included Jill Edgington Kirby from the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS), Elliot Dewhirst from the End of the Rainbow Foundation, Besrat Tesfamariam from Immigrant Services Calgary/Gateway, and Margaret Yu from Momentum. Dejana Knih, the CLIP Coordinator, moderated the panel discussion.

The panelists discussed the challenges faced by refugees, such as employers requiring Canadian work experience, social issues, and the struggle to afford a decent standard of living. They also offered suggestions on how to improve the lives of refugees, including supporting local refugee businesses, providing a non-judgmental environment, showing empathy, and volunteering to help them integrate into the Canadian system.

Partners from 10 immigrant-serving agencies had booths at the event to showcase free resources and programs that are available for refugees.


As we embrace the warmer months, it’s important to stay aware of the potential for bear encounters. While bears are fascinating creatures, they can be dangerous if approached unprepared. Here are crucial tips to ensure your safety while enjoying the great outdoors.

Staying Safe in Bear Territory

Encountering a bear can be a frightening experience, but knowing how to react can be life-saving. If a bear approaches you, remain calm and get ready to use your bear spray. Here’s how to handle different bear behaviors:

1. Assess the Bear’s Behavior:

○ Defensive Bears: If the bear appears stressed, agitated, or is making noise, it might be defensive due to feeding, protecting young, or being surprised by you.
○ Non-Defensive Bears: If the bear does not show signs of stress or agitation, it is likely not feeling threatened.

2. Responding to Defensive Bears:

○ Try to appear non-threatening and talk in a calm voice.
○ If the bear is not advancing, slowly back away without turning your back on the bear.
○ If the bear continues to approach, stand your ground and keep talking. Use your bear spray if the bear gets within 4 meters (12 feet).

3. Responding to Non-Defensive Bears:

○ Speak in a firm voice and move out of the bear’s path.
○ If the bear follows you, stop and stand your ground. Shout and act aggressively.
○ Try to intimidate the bear by picking up a stick or raising hiking poles above your head to appear larger.
○ Use your bear spray if the bear gets within 4 meters (12 feet).

4. General Bear Safety Tips:

○ Carry bear spray, have it accessible, and know how to use it properly.
○ Make noise (e.g., playing music, singing, clapping) and travel in groups.
○ Keep pets on a leash or leave them at home.
○ Pack out what you pack in to leave no trace behind.
○ Report all bear sightings to 403-591-7755 to warn other hikers and campers.

For more detailed information on how to properly use bear spray, watch this video by Alberta Parks: How to properly use bear spray.

To help our community stay safe, Gateway partner, Immigrant Services Calgary, will be hosting a Workshop: Bear Aware Basics and Tips for Day Hiking Trips on June 23. This workshop will be an excellent opportunity to meet Parks Canada staff in person and ask all the questions you want about bear safety.

Additional Resources:

For up-to-date information on bear safety practices and advisories, visit | Alberta Parks and Wildsmart — Biosphere Institute of the Bow Valley.

Remember, large animals sometimes wander into urban areas and can pose a public safety risk. If you spot bears, cougars, or moose within Calgary, please call 9-1-1.

Stay safe and enjoy your outdoor adventures responsibly!

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