By Jenn Watt
April 25 2017
A letter in last week’s paper featured several Environment Haliburton members sharing tips about composting in honour of Earth Day. One of the key features of their input was how to effectively compost without attracting bears.
Black bears are a part of our natural environment and like most wild animals don’t want much to do with humans. However our propensity to leave out food they like especially during years with poor berry and mast yield means bear-human encounters are a regular occurrence.
A few years back we seemed to be running regular bear stories in the paper – the bad kind where a bear shows up in someone’s home or cottage riffling through their fridge. Many years ago reporter Chad Ingram wrote a full feature story about finding a bear in his family’s cottage kitchen.
Retired Canadian Press journalist and Minden Times columnist Jim Poling Sr. wrote a book titled Bears in the Bird Feeders: Cottage Life on Shaman’s Rock which featured some of the stories of his bear encounters at his Algonquin Highlands cottage.
On the east side of the county in recent years we carried stories about a man’s dog wrestling with a black bear near Haliburton and a woman out in the forest in Harcourt area who ended up fending off a bear herself. Again dogs were involved.
This year the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is reminding residents that bears are likely to be out and about early due to the warm spring.
Garbage and bird seed are the two main attractors of bears. It follows that they advise feeding birds only in winter when bears are hibernating and keeping garbage in containers with tight-fitting lids. Remove grease from outdoor barbecues and don’t feed your pets outdoors they say.
Bears will travel up to 100 kilometres when they’re hungry remembering a reliable former food source.
As an aside: if you see a bear at the dump don’t go chasing it around to take a photo. Bears can run very quickly and wrestling with one will put you in the hospital. Some think bears look cute while eating garbage but creeping up to get a good shot is not advisable. At all.
Not all bear encounters are dangerous ones. If you see a bear checking out a garbage container in a tree in a residential area moving through backyards or pulling apart a bird feeder for example you can call the Bear Wise reporting line for assistance 24-7 from April 1 to Nov. 30: 1-866-514-2327.
However if a black bear is exhibiting aggressive behaviour – stalking or lingering trying to enter (or entering) a residence – in a school yard in a public gathering or killing pets or livestock call 911.
Police are the ones tasked with handling bears that are immediate threats. The MNRF may be called by the police to assist them when possible.
Some useful tips on bear encounters can be found at ontario.ca/bearwise.