It's camping season - which also coincides with bear encounter season!
What can you do to discourage bears from visiting your camp, and what to do in the case of an encounter? Here are some Bear Wise tips to keep in mind!
Prevent an Encounter: At Camp & Home
Though their usual prerogative is to avoid humans, bears are attracted to food, and are creatures of habit. Once a bear discovers a food source, they will return time after time, and may try to enter dwellings! Keeping your yard and site unwelcome to bears helps keep the whole community safer!
Here are some ways you can lessen the chances of a bear visit at home or camp:
Don’t leave garbage out overnight, and only put it out the morning of garbage day
Store waste in containers that have secured lids, and keep in a bear-proof spot such as a garage
Disinfect garbage cans regularly to remove scents
Bird feeders attract bears, so limit use to winter season, and during the summer offer natural alternatives such as flowers,
Clean BBQs by burning off food residue, emptying grease traps, washing the grill, and dealing with dishes/leftovers promptly
Fruit trees can encourage bears to enter yards - minimize risk by picking ripe and fallen fruit
Keep pet food inside the home
Prevent an Encounter: On the Trail
Travel in groups - bear attacks seldom occur in groups of two or more. The key while out in the wild is to alert bears (and any other wildlife) of your presence. Sing, whistle, or talk when in areas with limited visibility or when near a noisy water source.
Be aware of surroundings, and don’t wear headphones
Look for signs of bears
claw marks on trees
flipped over rocks
Keep pets on leash - an untrained pet may lead a bear right to you, and could further escalate an encounter if one occurs
Rise slowly if in a crouched or low position to not startle nearby bears
whistle, air horn, bells
bear spray - keep it easily accessible and know how to use it
consider carrying a long handled axe if in deep bush
What To Do in an Encounter
Bears usually want to flee when caught off guard, and the important thing is to stop what you’re doing, don’t panic, and remain calm. Bear attacks are rare - and the bear will provide warning signs, detailed below, to let you know if it feels threatened. A bear standing on hind legs is not aggressive behaviour, it is curious and trying to catch your scent or see you better.
Run, climb trees, or swim - a bear is much more skilled at these things than you
Make direct eye contact
Back away slowly with bear in sight, and wait for it to leave
If bear doesn’t leave, throw objects, wave arms, and make noise with whistle or horn
Prepare to use bear spray
If near a building or car, get inside
Bear Warning Signs
Defensive Bears (feels threatened)
Huff, moan, clack jaws
Lower its head with ears back while facing you
Bluff charge and/or swat the ground
Will approach silently and may continue advancing despite attempts to deter them
Be prepared to use bear spray and fight back
Do not play dead unless you’re sure the bear is a mama protecting her cubs
After an Encounter
Report the encounter by calling 1-866-514-2327 between April 1 and November 30
Tell neighbours/other folks on the trail
Remove/secure any non-natural food sources that the bear had access to
When to Use Self Defence
If all means of deterring and preventing an encounter have failed and a bear will not leave the property and your safety is at risk, you have the right to protect yourself. Killing a bear must be an action of last resort, and must be done according to local laws (such as firearm by-laws), safely, and as humanely as possible. A hunting licence is not needed to kill a bear in self-defence. A kill you are not intending to keep must be reported immediately to the local Ministry of Natural Resources. A kill that is kept must be registered with MNR with a Notice of Possession.
Looking for more information on bears? The Ontario website has great Bear Wise tips, facts, and information!
Wishing everyone a happy bear-free summer!