Bear sightings seen earlier; 1 bear surprisingly big

By Carl Clutchey
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Chronicle-Journal

Sightings of black bears poking around at rural landfills have been ahead of schedule this spring, but so far there have been no reports of close calls.

Just some raised eyebrows.

Nathan Armstrong said a big bruin he spotted on Saturday at Neebing’s Sand Hill Road landfill was so large and well-fed looking he wondered if it had bothered to hibernate.

“It looked really healthy,” Armstrong recalled on Tuesday. “I’ve never seen one that big at this time of year.”

Black bears usually appear a bit skinny when they emerge from their winter dens.

The Municipality of Neebing suggests early sightings could be part of a new normal in the wake of mild winters.

“Our staff say that the last few years they typically start seeing bears in the landfill around April,” said clerk-treasurer Erika Kromm.

“The municipality does not usually issue safety reminders (about bears), but our staff will provide them directly to people coming into the landfill if a bear is spotted on that day,” Kromm added.

Conmee chief administrator Shara Lavalle said it’s been good so far at her municipality’s landfill in terms of wayward bruin sightings.

“We haven’t had any complaints or comments from residents or landfill staff,” Lavalle said.

It’s been a similar story in Shuniah, officials said.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry advised that bears were expected to emerge from winter dens earlier than normal because of mild temperatures and a snowfall shortage.

According to a provincial backgrounder, bears can be attracted to landfills in early spring especially, “because there are few berries or nuts.”

Black bears “don’t start gaining weight until early July,” it added. The animals “only have five months to eat enough food to survive for an entire year,” including the winter hibernation.

Non-urgent bear sightings can be reported to Ontario’s Bear Wise line at 1-866-514-2327.