Reading Bear Behavior: A Q&A With A Top-Notch Bear Guide

Canadian bear guide shares secrets about bear behavior.
Reading Bear Behavior: A Q&A With A Top-Notch Bear Guide

Like people, animals have different personalities. I’m sure most of you know this. So do I…at least I thought I did. A recent trip to Alberta, Canada, showed me I wasn’t as hip to animal behavior/personalities as I originally thought.

I was the guest of Lisa and Troy Foster of North Alberta Outfitters (, and I’m here to tell you, Troy knows bears. Aside from running a trap line every year in the Canadian north and living off the land, Troy has been guiding bear hunters for over 20 years. After an evening sit in a small, makeshift ground blind and having a bear come within 3 yards of me huffing, clacking his jaws and trying to push through the ground with his front paws, I sat down for a little chat with Troy.

Bauserman: I may have to change my pants, Troy. Why did that bear act like that?

Foster: Bears have different personalities that, like people, start forming when they are very young. Typically, you will have a dominant cub – a cub that learns to be aggressive, a cub that learns to push his siblings around. That particular bear that came in on you was a young, very aggressive boar. I guarantee you he was the dominant bully in his cub group. He knows there are bigger bears on that bait and he is always testing his limits. Typically, younger boars will shy from a bait and keep their distance when they know a bigger boar has laid claim to a particular bait. This guy wasn’t sure what you were, and he was going to try and show you he was boss. When you’re hunting bears from the ground, you have to be on high alert at all times. Though very rare, when this bear started coming toward you clacking his teeth and huffing, he was showing serious signs of aggression. He was paying the bait no mind, another sign that he was trying to run you off. The odds of him actually doing something drastic are still very remote.

Bauserman: How do I know in the future if the bear is going to get aggressive with me?

Foster: Like I said, your encounter was rare. Just watch the bears as they approach the bait. For me, that’s the most exciting thing about hunting on the ground at eye level. You truly can get a feel for the personality of a given bear after watching him or her for just a few minutes. I know the bears on my baits. I know the ones I have to keep an eye out for and the ones that couldn’t care less that I’m in the area. Most bears will be relaxed and key in on the bait. Some will even come in and lay down by the bait. It’s also not uncommon for a bear to come check out the blind. Bears have a heightened sense of awareness and get curious. Don’t panic if a bear approaches the blind and tries to peer inside. Some will even stand on their hind legs to peek over the vegetation. As long as the bear isn’t bluff charging at the blind or making noises to show his distaste, all is well. Stay calm and enjoy the experience. I truly believe bears sense fear. Once a bear knows he has the upper hand on you, he is more likely to try and be a pain in the neck.


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