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MNRF reminds Ontarians to be Bear-wise this spring

Spring is upon us and officials want to remind Ontarians that means black bears will be coming out of hibernation. 

Chelsea Brooks with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry says bears waking from hibernation face a lack of natural food sources, leading them to look for food in garbage cans and bird feeders.

“So bears tend to be active in Ontario from spring to late fall. Taking simple precautions such as keeping properties free of garbage and bird feeders can help prevent attracting bears to your home and neighbourhood. Keeping bears in the wild where they belong,” she says.

Brooks says you can prevent bears from visiting your home and neighbourhood by:

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  • Storing garbage in waste containers with tight-fitting lids (indoors if possible)
  • Waiting until pickup day to put out garbage
  • Taking away bird feeders for the spring and summer (you can offer birds natural alternatives, such as flowers, nesting boxes and freshwater)
  • Cleaning food residue and grease from outdoor barbecue grills – including grease traps – after each use
  • Keeping pet food indoors

Brooks says it’s important to remember that bears that come into a populated area are not always a threat to public safety. She says black bear attacks are extremely rare and surprised bears can become stressed but they usually just want to flee. 

“So generally the noisier the bear is the less dangerous it is provided people don’t approach. The noise is meant to scare people off and act as a warning sign. Female bears with cubs present tend to be more aggressive in defense of their cubs, especially in the presence of dogs, and should be treated with extra caution,” she says.

Brooks says if someone encounters a bear they should slowly back away while keeping the bear in sight and wait for it to leave. In addition, she says people should throw objects, wave their arms and make noise with a whistle, air horn or yell. “If they have bear spray get ready to use it. If they’re near a building or vehicle it’s a good idea to get inside as a precaution and also drop any food they may be carrying,” Brooks says.

She says people can report a bear encounter by using the Bear-wise reporting line, at 1-866-514-2327 or they can go to the Bear-wise website for advice in non-emergency situations. The Bear-wise reporting line is open from April 1st to November 30th.

If a bear is posing an immediate threat by showing threatening or aggressive behaviour, call 911 or your local police department.

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