Black bear safety 101


There has already been an uptick in the number of black bear sightings around the district this year.

The below-average blueberry crop could be a contributing factor to the increased number of bears being spotted by district residents.

In the event you encounter a black bear, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests (MNRF) says stop, do not panic, and remain calm.

Slowly back away while keeping the bear in sight and wait for it to leave. If the bear doesn’t leave, wave your arms, throw objects, and make noise with a whistle or airhorn.

Be prepared to use bear spray and if you happen to be near a building or vehicle enter inside as a safety precaution.

Don’t run or climb a tree or try to swim away from the black bear, as they can do all these things much better than humans.

Also avoid kneeling down or making eye contact with the animal.

Generally, the more noise the bear makes the less dangerous it is and so long as you don’t approach it you should be fine.

The noise black bear’s make is meant to scare you off and act as a warning signal.

Bear attacks are extremely rare, in fact, only 25 have proven fatal over the past 20 years in North America, equating to an average of 1.25 fatal attacks a year.

Although, 750,000 black bears still live in North America, so knowing the correct actions to take in the event of a confrontation could be beneficial when trudging through the woods.

The MNRF says a threatened or predatory black bear will exhibit warning signs to let humans know when they’re too close.

If a black bear stands on its hind legs it’s important to note this is not aggressive behaviour, but rather the bear trying to get a better look at you and catch your scent.

A defensive bear will salivate excessively, exhale loudly, make huffing, moaning, clacking, and popping sounds with its mouth, and lower its head with its ears drawn back while facing you.

The defensive bear may also charge forward and/or swat the ground with its paws which is known as a “bluff charge.”

In contrast, a predatory bear will approach silently, and is usually found in rural or remote areas.

It may continue to approach you despite attempts to deter it by yelling or throwing rocks.

If the bear does attack you use bear spray, fight back with everything you have, and do not play dead unless you are sure a mother bear is attacking you in defence of her cubs.

In the event a bear is on your property, won’t leave, and you’re afraid for your safety, you have every right to protect yourself and your property, but killing a bear in self defence must be a last resort.

Any action taken must be done safely, in the most humane way possible, and according to applicable laws.

While bears usually try to avoid humans, they are attracted to urban and rural areas to access food.

Once a bear learns they can find food in residential areas they will likely return regularly and even attempt to enter buildings.

To avoid bears returning to areas inhabited by humans only put garbage out on the morning of garbage day, not the night before and ensure the containers have tight-fitting lids.

It’s also smart to store trash in a bear proof location such as a basement or garage.

As well, bears love bird feeders as they are a great source of calories, so store your bird feeders indoors until the winter.

In a non-emergency situation where a black bear isn’t putting anybody’s life in immediate danger call the Bear Wise reporting line at 1-866-514-2327, which operated 24/7 from April to November.

In an emergency situation where a bear poses an immediate threat to your personal safety or exhibits threatening or aggressive behaviour call 9-1-1 and report the encounter.

Police will respond first to an emergency situation but could require assistance from the MNRF.