When you are bear watching, safety is key. Polar bears are very dangerous. Just look at the polar vehicles that take tourists out across the tundra in Churchill, Canada, and you will see that no risks are being taken. Similarly, it is up to tourists to not take any risks either. And this applies to brown, black or polar bear watching. Always listen to your guides. They are experts. Do not dawdle to get a good photograph. It is not worth it. And if you are hiking in bear country, follow all the rules too. The main ones are: keep all food hidden, concealed and locked away when possible; walk in groups and make plenty of noise in bear country; do not turn your back on a bear and run but back away slowly; carry pepper spray for emergencies.
On polar bear watching expeditions, there is usually a safety drill in the mornings, so pay attention.
If you are bear watching in the mountains in early summer, especially in Canada and USA, beware that there is still a risk of avalanches. Don’t hike immediately after a storm, as this is often when avalanches occur. Always check the avalanche forecast. There might not be snow where you are walking but, if there is a big melt higher up, it can travel down the valley.
General wildlife awareness is important, not just for bears. So, you need to inform yourself of what to do in the event of an encounter before you go. Do not let your children wander too far ahead of you, so that you can keep a close eye.
Temperatures can plummet in many bear watching regions. So always carry a sensible layer or two. Hypothermia can be life threatening and happen at any time of year. So, check the weather differences before you pack, and cater for extremes.
If you are driving in wildlife watching areas, look out for wildlife – collisions with deer in all bear watching countries are common, and accidents caused by moose in Canada and the USA can result in serious injury, and even death.