WildSmart’s Living Smart with Wildlife brochure helps Bow Valley visitors and residents avoid and manage wildlife encounters. It contains information about bear spray attractants, roadside viewing, biking, pets, and more. We distribute thousands of printed copies throughout the Bow Valley each year.

Read on for Living Smart with Wildlife tips that are specific to recreating in bear country.



When you’re out on the trails, remember that you are sharing space with wildlife. Precaution and pre-trip planning are the best ways to avoid an unwanted encounter. Before heading out, check for trail closures and warnings. Bigger picture, learn how to recognize the signs of bears and other wildlife and how to avoid encounters.

You can avoid a negative wildlife encounter and minimize the impact you have on wildlife by:

  1. Making noise: Let wildlife know that you are coming by singing, yelling, or talking loudly. This is particularly important when traveling through areas of limited visibility or around streams and rivers where wildlife is less likely to hear you coming. Don’t rely on loud music from your iPhone or stereo on the trails. It is not effective to keep bears away and instead, it makes you less aware of your surroundings. Bear bells are not recommended by experts; the human voice carries much better.

  2. Traveling in groups: Large groups of four or more people have proven less likely to be involved in a serious wildlife encounter.

  3. Respecting all trail closures and warnings: Trail closures and warnings are put in place for public safety or when wildlife are most sensitive to people (e.g., during early spring when bears are emerging from their dens, during berry season, or during the elk mating season). Respect all closures and warnings by choosing another area to hike, bike, run, etc. To view current trail closures and warnings in the Bow Valley, Kananaskis Country and Banff National Park, click here.

  4. Keeping a safe distance: Take photos or observe animals from a safe distance — 100 metres for bears, and 30 metres or more for other large wildlife species.

  5. Being aware of your surroundings: Watch for fresh evidence of wildlife activity, such as tracks, scat, diggings or overturned rocks and logs. If you see a bear or see or smell a dead animal, leave the area.

  6. Keeping children nearby

  7. Keeping dogs on leash (unless in a designated off-leash area): Negative interactions between dogs and wildlife often end with the wild animal’s relocation by parks staff (which results in about a 50% survival rate) or euthanasia. It is illegal not to have your dog on leash in Canmore, the surrounding habitat patches, and in both provincial and national parks.

  8. Carrying bear spray: Ensure that you are carrying it somewhere accessible such as in a holster or attached directly to a pack strap, and know how to use it.

  9. Staying out of designated wildlife corridors: If your trail cuts across a wildlife corridor, move through the area quickly.

  10. Removing potential attractants: Whether it is your campsite or home, secure and/or remove potential attractants such as garbage, pet food, bird feeders, berry bushes and fruit trees. Learn more about attractant management here.

In case you do come across wildlife, follow the tips below for managing encounters with specific species.




The 25-minute documentary Living with Wildlife premiered in Canmore on May 3, 2017 and is now available to view online. The film illustrates the culture around living with wildlife in the Bow Valley, described as the busiest place in the world where people and grizzly bears continue to coexist. The film also takes a realistic look at the challenges and the constant pressures wildlife face.

Don’t have 25 minutes to watch the film? No problem! You can check out the digital story version by clicking the image below!