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Bear Wise precautions prevent bear encounters

Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is offering tips to reduce the odds of attracting bears — and advice on what to do if you encounter one
MNRF is offering tips to reduce the odds of attracting bears and what to do if one is encountered.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is encouraging northern Ontarians to be bear-wise as the hungry animals prepare for hibernation.

“Bears entering populated areas aren’t always a threat to public safety, but safety is at risk when a bear exhibits threatening or aggressive behaviour,” the ministry says in a news release. 

MNRF is offering the following tips to reduce the odds of attracting bears and advice on what should be done if one is encountered:

Reduce the chances of attracting bears by:

  • Storing garbage in waste containers with tight-fitting lids (indoors if possible) 
  • Washing garbage containers and dumpsters frequently using a strong disinfectant to reduce odours
  • Waiting until garbage pickup day to put out garbage 
  • Keeping pet food indoors
  • Cleaning food residue and grease from outdoor barbecue grills, including the grease trap, after each use
  • Storing bird feeders for the spring (you can offer birds natural alternatives, such as flowers, nesting boxes and fresh water)
  • Turning compost regularly and keeping meat, fish, or sweet foods like fruit out of your composter
  • Keeping meat and fish scraps in the freezer until garbage collection day
  • Picking fruits and berries from the ground and trees as they ripen

If you encounter a bear:

  • Call 911 or your local police if your safety is at risk
  • Remain calm – often the bear is just passing through and will move on if no food source is found
  • If a bear is in a tree, leave it alone and remove other people and dogs from the area
  • Keep away from the bear, and do not block its exit
  • Tell others of its location and warn them to keep away, and bring children and pets indoors
  • If near a building or car, get inside as a precaution
  • If the bear was attracted to food or garbage, remove these items after the bear leaves to discourage the bear from returning
  • Keep dogs on leash and away from bears 
  • If you have a conflict with a bear, call the Bear Wise line toll-free at 1-866-514-2327 for advice on how to avoid human-bear encounters during bear season (April 1 to November 30)

If a bear approaches you:

  • Slowly back away while watching the bear
  • If a bear tries to approach you, do not turn and run — make noise, throw rocks or sticks, and make yourself appear as big as possible
  • Carry a noise-making device such as a whistle or air horn, and use it if necessary
  • If the bear continues to approach you, keep backing away slowly while acting aggressively towards the bear
  • If you are carrying bear repellent, make sure you are familiar with the product and how it is used, using it only if the bear is attacking you or is extremely close to you
  • Bear attacks are rare, however, if a bear does attack, do not play dead unless you are sure it is a mother bear attacking you in defence of cubs
  • Fighting back is the best chance of discouraging a bear from continuing its attack, so use a large stick, a rock, or anything else that you can to deter the bear 

If a bear is exhibiting threatening or aggressive behaviour, call 911 or local police.

For advice on reducing bear attractants, call the Bear Wise reporting line toll-free at 1-866-514-2327; hearing impaired (TTY) 1-705-945-7641. You will be connected directly with a live operator during bear season (April 1 to November 30)

For more information on how to be bear wise click here.