Fresh Deer Kill on Hiking Trails: How To Best Avoid Animal Conflict and What to do if You Can’t

Earlier in the day, the City of Revelstoke made residents aware that a ‘fresh’ deer kill was sighted in the Illecillewaet trail system between the pedestrian bridge and the trail leading to Arrow Heights. The situation was reported to the RAPP line and the city is encouraging caution when walking with children or dogs.

Out of curiosity, the Revelstoke Current talked to Frank Ritcey, the Senior Provincial WildSafeBC Coordinator.

“Cougars, grizzlies and black bears all kill deer,” Ritcey says, “but typically, in the case of a full sized deer, it is unlikely it would be a bear.”

It’s important, Ritcey urges, to not assume the deer is dead as a result on an animal attack. “There are so many ways it could have died out there,” he says. Without surveying the remains and site, Ritcey notes all discussion on how the deer died is speculation, but that deer are famous for wandering when injured. “I’m not saying it wasn’t killed by an animal, but if deer are hurt by vehicles or an unsuccessful human hunter, they can wander wounded quite far away,” he says.

“Regardless of how it died, something will probably claim it quickly. And it is amazing how fast it will be cleaned up. Once the ravens, bears and coyotes know where it is, it will be gone remarkably quickly,” says Ritcey. “The big thing is to give it space and understand it will be cleaned up by wildlife itself in a very short time.”

In the event the deer was killed by a cougar, there are some helpful hints on the WildSafeBC page about how to limit interactions and what to do in the rare event of meeting a cougar.

  • Avoid hiking alone; travel in pairs or groups. Cougars are less likely to attack groups of people.
  • Make noise as you move, to avoid surprise encounters with cougars (and bears). Be extra vigilant in strong wind or near loudwater.
  • Keep pets leashed, or leave them at home if you don’t think you’d be able to control your pet in the event of a cougar (or bear) encounter.
  • Keep children in view, and don’t let them wander alone.
  • If you encounter a cougar, keep calm. Make yourself look as large as possible and back away slowly, keeping the cougar in view and allowing a clear exit for the cougar. Pick up small children and pets.
  • Never run away or turn your back, it may provoke an attack.
  • If you notice a cougar watching you, maintain eye contact and speak in a loud, firm voice. Back out of the area and seek assistance or shelter.
  • If a cougar shows aggression or follows you, respond aggressively: keep eye contact, yell and make loud noise, show your teeth. Try and find a weapon while crouching as little as possible
  • If a cougar attacks, fight back, focusing on the facial and eye area. Convince the cougar you are a threat, not prey.

To avoid a confrontation with a grizzly, and what to do if you encounter one, are as follows:

  • Talk in a loud voice while walking.
  • Be especially vigilant if you are working alongside running water, in thick bush or if there is a strong wind blowing – in these circumstances a bear is less likely to hear you and a chance for a surprise encounter is greater.
  • If you encounter a bear, assess what type of encounter it is – defensive or predatory
  • A defensive encounter will usually be marked by a lot of noise by the bear and a head on rush at you.
  • Hold your ground and pull out your bear spray and release the safety
  • Speak to the bear in a loud low voice saying things like “Whoa bear – you’d better back off”
  • If the bear continues its charge and closes to within 5-10 meters, deploy your bear spray in a short burst, aiming from the ground up to create a wall between you and the bear. When the bear retreats, head back to your vehicle and contact the Conservation Officer Reporting line as soon as possible. Alert others in the area to the presence of the bear.
  • If the bear breaks off its charge before you have to deploy your spray – take a step or two back away from the bear. Continue to speak in a low voice. Do not make direct eye contact with the bear. Keep your bear spray at the ready. Once the bear knows you are not a threat it should leave or return to what it was protecting. Continue to back away and keep an eye on the bear. Return to your vehicle and alert the authorities and your co-workers as to the presence of the bear.

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