Are you going to bear country this summer? Remember we share our parks with these wonderful creatures. Be prepared and aware!
To be prepared, let’s first understand some basics about bears. Black bears, despite their name, aren’t always black and will range in colour and weigh 250lb to 650lbs. Due to hibernation during winter months, finding food is very important from April to late fall. Although portrayed as meat eaters, bears are omnivores, meaning they eat meat and plants. Berries, nuts and other plants are the majority of their diet. However, bears are opportunistic, meaning if they smell food they will search it out and eat it. Once they find a food source they will keep returning.
Since bears have such a keen sense of smell, it’s your responsibility to keep your campsite clean. If you have a vehicle, pack up all your food into containers and keep it in your trunk. This includes anything with a smell, so pack up those toiletries and clothes you have cooked in. Also, do not dump your dish water on your site. Waste water should be dumped down a vault privy.
If you are in the backcountry, hang your food at least 4 metres (13 feet) above ground on a branch 3 metres from the trunk and tree limbs that could support a bear. Bears are great climbers. Make sure you include your toiletries, fishing tackle and clothes you wore cooking. Practice before you go camping, and make sure you pack a carabineer and a rope. If you do not have any suitable trees on your site but have a canoe, put your bag in the canoe and anchor it offshore.
Bear safety is very important and should be taken seriously. Park wardens are constantly on patrol and can lay charges if your campsite isn’t maintained. The charge associated with improper storing of wildlife attractants carries a $155 fine. This is for your safety and for the safety of other current and future visitors.
Now that you are a little more prepared for bear country, make sure you are aware. Always know where you are in the park and what is surrounding you. Look to see if there are signs of bear activity, such as tracks or scat. Also, watch for any information at the park about recent bear sittings.
If you have questions about bears while you are visiting Ontario Parks, ask a staff member. They would be happy to help.
There are many more tips available on the Bear Wise site: http://ontario.ca/bwol
Like any other animal, bears are wild and must be treated respectfully. Generally, bears are afraid of humans and keep their distance. While in their habitat, it is important we do our part to ensure safe human and bear interactions.