Black bears live all across Ontario in rural, forested areas. As many as 90% of Ontario’s parks are in bear country. It is therefore possible to come across a black bear while camping or going for a hike in the woods. Don’t panic, though. Black bears aren’t very aggressive. You can avoid an encounter by taking some simple precautions.
Here’s how you can stay safe from black bears:
- Camp at designated sites. Camp sites are chosen for their safety and practicality. Should you choose to camp elsewhere, you risk sleeping near a bear’s den or favourite sources of food.
- Do not sleep outside your tent. Your tent is the safest place to sleep. So, put out the fire, put all your food away, and go to sleep in your tent. Stay there until the morning.
- Use bear-safe food storage. Store your food and garbage in a cooler inside the truck of your car. If you are backcountry camping, use a bear-safe barrel or bag, then hang it 50m from camp, 4m off the ground, 3m away from the nearest tree trunk.
- Use the triangle approach. Set up camp in the shape of a triangle. Both your food storage and cooking area should be 50m away from your sleeping area.
- Pour grey water in designated areas. The grey water created from cooking and cleaning up after a meal smells good to bears. Pour it away from your campsite, in accordance with the park’s guidelines.
- Watch your pets. Dogs can be unpredictable. So, keep your dog on a leash during walks and trips away from camp.
- Stay alert. Watch for signs of bears, like tracks and droppings. Always stay with your group.
- Carry bear spray. You probably won’t need it, but it doesn’t hurt to have it with you. You can find bear spray at camping shops and many home supply stores. Read the product’s instructions very carefully before you go camping.
The main takeaways are to keep food out of reach and to remain alert. Black bears are beautiful animals that can usually be avoided. They are the shiest of Canada’s bears and will usually stay away from human voices and activity.
What do you do if you see a bear?
Back away from the bear, slowly, while keeping the bear in sight. Then, wait for the animal to leave. If you’re carrying any food, drop it, and get into the nearest car or building. Stay calm. If you are at your campsite or on a trail, you can wave your arms around, makes lots of noise, and throw objects at the bear. Be ready to use bear spray. If the bear is in a tree, leave it alone and leave the area entirely.
Are black bears dangerous?
Not particularly. Black bears are fairly shy and prefer to avoid conflict. If you encounter one, there is a good chance that it will run away. However, they may attack you if they are startled or if you get too close to a mother and her cubs. Always be prepared for an encounter. The best thing you can do is avoid one entirely by using the tips listed above.
Do black bears attack humans?
Black bear attacks are rare. These animals prefer to keep their distance from humans. Nevertheless, it is important that you keep your food out of reach and take all necessary precautions. Use bear spray in the event of an attack, and do not play dead unless you are sure that you are dealing with a mother and her cubs. Give the bear everything you’ve got.
Remember that shooting a bear in self-defence must be an action of last resort. Shooting a bear requires a license under normal circumstances. Call 911 if you need help, and report encounters to Ontario’s Bear Wise line at 1-866-514-2327.
Are there grizzlies in Ontario?
No. There are no grizzlies in Ontario. Grizzly bears live in western Canada and the western United States. Follow the same guidelines if you are camping out west and be careful.