Town seeing rash of black bears in recent weeks

While it’s not uncommon to receive a rash of reports of black bears prowling neighbourhoods around town at this time of the year, bylaw enforcement officer Dave Egan said the past three weeks or so has been exceptional.
He’s received a total of 81 reported sightings as of yesterday afternoon—the most recent being a 327-pound adult female that had climbed a tree outside the Ministry of Natural Resources office on Scott Street yesterday morning.
“It had to be destroyed,” Egan noted. “The tranquilizing worked to a point. We had netting set up when it came down. It was momentarily immobilized.
“But then it came to, got on all fours, and there was concern for the safety of the public,” he added. “Unfortunately, we had to make the decision and the OPP shot it for safety reasons.
“This was our first one. It’s unfortunate, being a sow, but safety was the reason for [the] decision,” stressed Egan, adding other towns in the region, such as Red Lake, have had to kill 23 bears.
Of the other bear calls responded to in recent weeks, the town live-trapped two and immobilized another eight. They subsequently were relocated.
This only was the second adult bear reported, said Egan, adding the rest have been young ones or cubs.
“And the majority have been in the north and east end, and the central part of town. Just recently, they’ve started to be in the west end of town,” he noted.
“It’s tapering off a little, believe it or not. It was quite bad for a while. But we’re still working on some areas to stop the ‘routiners’ from coming back,” Egan remarked.
Bylaw enforcement officer Arlene Byrnes estimated the total number of bears reported in town last year was in the “high 30s”—only half as much as this year.
Linda Wall, the MNR’s area supervisor for Rainy Lake, who also is responsible for “problem bears” and educating the public under the new “Bear Wise” program, said the number of incidents may be higher than last year but they’re not extraordinary.
“It’s not unusually high. The town has had much higher numbers of bear incidents in the past,” she noted yesterday. “It’s just that we’ve had quieter years in the recent past leading up to this.
“But certainly, across the province, we’re seeing an increase in conflicts.
“Part of it is the berry crop—although in some places it was very good, it was sporadic and spotty,” Wall added. “Even the berry-pickers will tell you where they usually get berries, they didn’t get them this year.
“So that would have an impact.
“The challenge the town is facing is the garbage issue is quite bad,” Wall noted. “People continue to resist the bylaw stating they must put their garbage out the morning before pick-up. Drive down any back lane and see.
“People are putting out garbage two-three days before pick-up.
“We also had a bumper crop of apples in town and some people don’t like picking them up. The fermenting apples, the smell draws them in,” added Wall. “Some people are doing an excellent job picking up but then a block down the street, someone else isn’t.”
Wall noted some bears are staying in town because they’re getting so much readily-available food.
“They’re biologically driven to eat massive amounts of food right now. They have to get bulked up for winter, for hibernation,” she explained.
“They absolutely have to get the quickest, easiest food possible, and the garbage is providing that for them, as well as the apple trees and fruit trees,” she said.
Wall also said the MNR is aware the black bear populations are high.
“But all populations are up. The deer population is exploding,” she noted. “It’s due to a number of factors, including the mild winters. We’ve had some good berry years, and bears have had high reproduction and low mortality.”
Like Egan, Wall said a high numbers of incidents at this time are younger bears, whom she referred to as “those two-year-olds who have been booted out by their mom.”
“They do not have a territory yet,” she remarked. “They’re beat up by the old boars they run into. They’re trying to find their niche.
“They become like teenagers—they’re problematic, they’re opportunistic, they’re trying to find a place. Sometimes they’re a little silly and do dumb things.”
Wall stressed the public should realize the MNR refers to the bears the town’s been seeing as “problem bears,” not “nuisance bears.” And that with the term “human-bear conflict,” the human comes first because they cause the factors that result in the conflicts.
The following precautionary measures should be taken in order to prevent bears from staying in the area, and ensuring public safety at the same time:
•Put garbage out on the morning of garbage day, not the night before;
•Do not leave pet food outdoors;
•Thoroughly clean outdoor grills after use;
•Fill bird feeders only through the winter months;
•Do not put meat, fish, or sweet food (including fruit) in your composter;
•Don’t compost with open containers;
•Keep meat scraps in the freezer until garbage pick-up day;
•Pick all ripe fruit off trees, and remove vegetables and fallen fruit from the ground;
•Clean up any garbage in your yard;
•Ensure dumpster lids are closed; and
•Leave the bears alone—remember, they’re wild and highly unpredictable.
While bear activity at the town dump isn’t unusual at the moment, users always should be cautious of bears when disposing garbage there.
Residents also are urged not to go to the landfill just to see the bears.
Residents with bear complaints are directed to call the OPP’s communications centre (1-888-310-1122), not the local detachment or the town.
When reporting a bear, complainants should be prepared to provide the following information:
•the location of the bear;
•number of times the bear has been sighted;
•time(s) of day the bear is sighted;
•possible attractants in area (birdfeeder, garbage, etc.); and
•what, if any, property damage occurred.
After a report is made, a bylaw officer and/or police may attend the scene, depending on the circumstances.
Authorities then either will deploy a live trap, immobilize, and remove the bear, or destroy it if necessary.