Keep carrying your bear spray in winter, Yukon conservation officers say

Usually Yukoners can relax a bit in the winter when they're outdoors, assured by the notion that bears should be hibernating.But Yukon Conservation Officer Services is recommending people continue taking bear precautions in the fall and winter."Bears can be out any time a year," said Jim Welsh, hunter education and outreach officer with conservation officer services."We commonly have reports of bear encounters this time of year."Welsh said seeing a bear that's out of its den in the fall or winter signals that something is wrong. "If it's out, it's likely that it's been injured and can't get food, doesn't have adequate fat reserves to stay the winter or has been pushed out of its den for some reason."Bear spray isn't just for summerWelsh recommends people carry bear spray and know how to use it. He says parents should practice with their kids. Inert cans of bear spray, for practising, are sold locally.Because the effectiveness of bear spray can be impacted by freezing temperatures, Welsh said people should try to keep it warm by carrying it inside a coat. Welsh said he doesn't know if there are more bears out this year than in past years, but noted there have been serious incidents in the fall and winter in the past. In November 2018, a mother and baby were attacked and killed by a grizzly bear at their trapline outside of Mayo.  Welsh also said there's no known correlation between the warm fall and winter weather Yukon has been experiencing and the hibernation patterns of bears. But he said people should keep bear safety in mind year-round. "I think it's an important time for a community to reflect on the importance of us being prepared and working together to be safe."

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