Bearing Down on the Yukon

Hello again readers, it’s me, Martin the BIObus crew member. Remember how last time I talked about Smithers? Well this time I’m going to give a rundown of what we’ve been doing since then like the drive up to the Yukon and our little visit to Whitehorse and a bit about bear safety.

The BIObus is just about to cross the border into the Yukon.
The BIObus is just about to cross the border into the Yukon.

We left Tyhee Lake Provincial Park Campground on the twelfth of July and started our adventure north on the Trans Canada Highway towards the Yukon. Along the way we made a quick stop in Moricetown to watch fishermen catch salmon in the river there. It was spectacular to see the fishermen hang from the rocks near the water’s edge and simply place their nets in the water and catch salmon swimming upstream. We didn’t stick around for too long, we had a schedule to keep. If we were going to get to Kluane National Park within two days we needed to get moving. Our ride North was nothing short of remarkable with mountains surrounding us for most of the ride there, beautiful rivers and grand cliff side views. Along our way we saw tonnes of birds and lots of animals. We stopped that night at a rest stop just before we hit the border of the Yukon and British Columbia. After a long night of battling mosquitoes we left in a hurry to get out of the mosquito infested rest area. In less than an hour we were at the border.

Once we made it to the Alaska Highway we speedily made our way North to Whitehorse to meet Carmen, Kluane’s park ecologist. She gave us a rundown of what we should expect of Kluane and where she recommends we should set up our insect traps. She also gave us some recommendation on bear safety. It was a well needed break from driving for the past seven plus hours but there was no time to relax we still needed to drive to Haines Junction which is another two hours away! We made it to our campsite just in time to have dinner and go to sleep. The next morning we headed out to the Kluane visitors center to check out a bear safety video that was being screened just for us. The video was very informative, we learnt how to avoid bears and how to deal with coming across them in the field.

A bear happily trailing along the side of the road.
A bear happily trailing along the side of the road.

While working in bear country there are a few things to always keep in mind. Firstly, bears are wild animals, and should be treated as such and no matter how cute that little grizzly bear cub looks you should never ever approach a bear. Secondly, bears are more afraid of us than we are of them, you should always carry bear spray, bear bells and walk in groups and have loud conversations so that if there are any bears in the area they can hear you first and scamper away. Thirdly, you should never surprise a bear, if you are being careful this shouldn’t be a problem but if not, bears can act in a variety of different ways and a few of those ways could end badly for either party. We were told that bears can be shy, curious, defensive, or aggressive and each mood has a different protocol to follow. A shy bear will flee an area as soon as it catches a hint of a human presence so these bears are not very dangerous. A curious bear may be interested in the food wrappers you leave behind or the sounds of footsteps with no voices, these bears can be avoided by keeping the trails clean and being loud, bears know what’s good for them and will avoid people. A defensive bear will stand its ground, it may even advance on you, the best way to deal with these bears is to make lots of noise, raise your voice at the bear and show it that you are ready to fight if it comes to it, and get your bear spray ready. Start moving backwards from the bear, if it follows you stand your ground again and make yourself look as big as possible. Once you are safely far enough away from the bear go back the way you came and head for the trail exit. If the bear does not stop his advance drop to the ground, lay on the ground face down and put your hand over your head, this will protect your face and vital organs. Lastly, an aggressive bear is the most dangerous, it may even believe you are food, this can be noted by the way the bear advances in your direction with its eyes fixed on you. In this case do the same as before but this time fight for your life because this time the bear is going for a kill! As you could imagine, this information really riled us up and so we’ve taken extra precautions and even come up with a few songs to sing along the paths. Each of us carries bear spray and a set of bear bells, luckily the only bears we’ve seen are on the side of the road just lounging happily in the sun.

The sign leading in to bear country, a cute way of saying BEWARE OF BEARS!
The sign leading in to bear country, a cute way of saying BEWARE OF BEARS!

–        Martin Zlatkin

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