OHS Canada Magazine

What to do if you see a bear: As warm weather arrives, bears are waking up from hibernation

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April 4, 2023
By OHS Canada

Health & Safety bears ontario wildlife

Baby black bear playing in the tree. Photo: AB Photography/Adobe Stock

Black bears are starting to come out of hibernation as the weather warms up, and the Ontario government and the OPP are warning the public (and workers) to be vigilant to prevent encounters.

Bears waking from hibernation face a lack of natural food sources, leading them to look for food in garbage cans and bird feeders. People can prevent bears from visiting homes, worksites and neighbourhoods by:

  • 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 fresh water)
  • Cleaning food residue and grease from outdoor barbecue grills – including grease traps – after each use
  • Keeping pet food indoors

Bears will remember their last source of food and return their when hungry, sometimes travelling over 100 kilometres in the process, the government said.

Who to call if you see a bear

The first step is assessing whether it’s an emergency or non-emergency encounter.

Emergency situations

Call 911 or your local police force if a bear poses an immediate threat to personal safety. Some threatening or aggressive behaviours include:

  • Entering a schoolyard when school is in session
  • Stalking people and lingering on-site
  • Entering or trying to enter a residence
  • Wandering into a public gathering
  • Killing livestock/pets and lingering on site.

Police are first responders for any emergency. If requested by police, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry may respond to emergencies to assist during daylight hours.

Non-emergency situations

Call the toll-free Bear Wise reporting line at 1-866-514-2327 (TTY 705-945-7641) if a bear is:

  • Moving through a backyard or field but is not lingering
  • Roaming around the neighbourhood
  • Checking garbage cans
  • Breaking into a shed where garbage or food is stored
  • Knocking over a barbecue
  • Pulling down a bird feeder
  • In a tree

This line operates 24-hours a day, seven days a week, from April 1 to November 30. Staff can provide advice about bear behaviour, how to avoid human-bear encounters, and how to manage attractants on your property.

Visit ontario.ca/bearwise for tips on how to prevent human-bear encounters and avoid attracting bears.


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