As more people get outside in Cottage Country, bear sightings are becoming more common. 

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s spokesperson Jolanta Kowalski says the best thing to do to avoid them is to prevent anything on your property from smelling like food to them. “They’re not particular, they like the smell of garbage, barbecues, dog food and especially bird feeders so if you can manage the smells from those things for example take down your bird feeder they don’t need it in the summer,” she said. 

Try to keep it where it can’t smell, Kowalski said, like if you have a garage or shed for example. 

As for what to do if you do encounter one, she added that it depends on a few factors. “If it’s on your property and it’s close to you then what you would want to do is go inside the home, if it’s a public safety risk you would call the local police or 911 if they if you feel that there is a threat, otherwise you know the bear will wander off and that’s an opportunity for a homeowner to do that clean up that I was talking about around smells and that sort of thing,” she said. 

Seeing it from distance is different, however, Kowalski said. “If you see a bear from the distance that doesn’t require any action since it could just be passing through if you live in a rural area that’s not unusual, but if you get up a little bit closer to the bear what you want to do is slowly back away while keeping the bear in sight and wait for it to leave,” she added.

“If the bear doesn’t leave, wave arms and make noises with a whistle obviously if you’re near a building or vehicle get inside as a precaution and if you’re carrying any food drop it and slowly back away,” she said. Kowalski also warned against habituation, which is when people unintentionally and sometimes intentionally feed the bears, which is a terrible thing to do because it can cause more harm than good.

It could even result in the bear being dispatched especially if it becomes habituated then loses its fear of humans so please don’t feed any wild animal that will cause them to return again and again to where they got an easy meal. 

If they become habituated, they become a problem by returning they lose their fear and may end up being trapped and killed. “We suggest for example that you stay aware of your surroundings and make noise as you go through an area that might be wooded and might be bear territory,” she said.

Don’t wear headphones that don’t allow you to hear what’s going on around you and just be aware, also the other thing is please keep your dogs on a leash don’t let them run free because there have been cases where the bear will follow the dog right back to the owner which you don’t want so those are some of the things worth knowing if you live in bear country and there are steps that you can take to keep yourself safer, you can also carry bear spray if that makes you feel more comfortable but know how to use it before using it.

Written by Mo Fahim