Posted by: travelrat | October 8, 2015



Not long ago, Aldi supermarkets did an excellent TV commercial, which showed a bear comparing their own-brand toilet paper with a better-known brand. When he’d finished, he said:

‘And, in answer to the usual question …. Of course I do!’

I’ve chosen bears as the subject of today’s dissertation because, while researching for our upcoming trip on the Rocky Mountaineer, I came upon a review site, where someone complained that they didn’t see any bears. Now, this may come as a surprise to them, but I don’t really believe that the railway people train bears to stand at the trackside, and wave at the trains as they pass!

This month’s issue of Lonely Planet Traveller contained an article about bears. Mainly polar bears, which we won’t see this trip, but a passing mention given to black bears (which aren’t always black) and brown bears, of which the grizzly bear is a variety. The way to tell the difference, they say, is that, if you climb a tree to escape them, the black bear will come after you and the brown bear will knock the tree down.

Another piece of advice is that, if pursued by a bear, you don’t need to run faster than the bear; just faster than the person next to you.

Of course, I’m hoping that we don’t get that close to the creature … just close enough to get some decent photos will do.

Fortunately, bears are easily discouraged from snacking on you; you usually need to have really annoyed him for that to happen. In the TV series, Sarah Palin’s Alaska, she showed the various methods she had to deter bears … pepper spray, shell crackers, baton rounds (aka ‘rubber bullets’) Only when these had failed would she use pointy lead bullets … and she said she had never had to do so yet.

Another method of deterring bears was the simple method used by a friend. He had just returned from walking the Pacific Crest Trail, and was leading a multi-day walk in the Highlands when one of his clients asked:

‘Why do you have a bell on your rucksack, Roger?’

‘Oh, that’s to keep the bears away’

‘But, there aren’t any bears in Scotland!’

‘Works rather well, doesn’t it?’



  1. “Now, this may come as a surprise to them, but I don’t really believe that the railway people train bears to stand at the trackside, and wave at the trains as they pass!”

    It takes all sorts to make this world go ’round…

    When I was working my first field job (I’m a geologist, by the way), we were in ‘bear country’, and we were given this lengthy seminar on how to cope with bear encounters. The randomest bits of advice came to light: if you’re yea close to a bear, don’t make eye contact and back away slowly vs if you’re this close, when you’ll want to open your jacket and pretend to be bigger than the bear, and lastly of course, firing warning shots to deter the bear and / or use bear spray.

    Anyway, this was a really fun read– thanks 🙂

    • I’m in contact with a couple of friends who’ve ridden the Rocky Mountaineer, and they say the Park authorities take measures to discourage the bears from getting too close to the track.

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