In eastern Georgian Bay we have one species of bear, the Black Bear!  Black bears are omnivorous, they eat grasses, leaves, berries and nuts as they become available throughout the summer months. They will also eat carrion (dead animals), moose calves, and deer calves. 

Black bears hibernate for about six months. In central Ontario, bears usually enter their dens by early November and do not emerge from their dens until mid to late April.  Pregnant females are the first bears to enter their dens, followed by females accompanied by cubs of the year, subadults, and finally adult males.  During this time, they do not eat or drink.

Why are there so many bears in town centers lately?

In September, bears enter hyperphagia. This is a state of extreme hunger that is caused by a bear’s internal clock counting down to hibernation. During this time, bears can forage for food for up to 20 hours a day (that could be up to 20,000 calories). Since towns have lots of enticing smells and potential food sources, this means you may see more bears than usual around town in the fall.

Black bears are attracted to accessible, high energy and easily digested food. Often, human practices like feeding birds and other wildlife, cooking outdoors and storing or disposing of garbage attract bears. These alternate food sources are common and easily accessible in urban areas.

Bears may be more likely to enter towns during years when their natural food sources are relatively low. For example, a poor blueberry crop caused by late frost or a dry summer can push bears to seek food from human sources.

What do I do if I see a bear in town?

Not every bear sighting is an emergency. An encounter is considered an emergency if the bear is creating an imminent threat (i.e trying to break into a residence). In the case of an emergency encounter, you can call 911 or your local police station.

Most bear encounters are not emergencies. This includes instances of bears breaking into garbage cans, bird feeders, beehives, or other sources of food. If you would like to report a non-emergency bear encounter you can contact Bear Wise at 1-866-514-2327.

Ways to be bear wise BEFORE you see a bear:

  • Ensure that all garbage is secure and inaccessible
  • Remove bird feeders when bears are active
  • Never leave pet food outside
  • Be aware of any potential bear attractants such as dirty grills, compost, or vegetable gardens, and exclude bears when possible

True or False: You cannot compost in bear country.  FALSE

You can most certainly keep a compost in bear country, however If your compost isn’t properly maintained, there is a chance that they could get into it. With the proper steps, this shouldn’t be a problem! To learn more visit: https://www.gbbr.ca/from-garbage-to-garden/

Ways to be bear wise WHEN you see a bear:

  • Never approach a bear, stay back and make loud sounds.  It may seem mean, but keeping bears frightened of people keeps them safe!
  • Never try to feed a bear.

Habitualized bears are often killed because they have become “nuisances” or are perceived as a threat to human safety. They also have a greater risk of getting injured or killed in collisions with vehicles when they are habituated to human communities and areas. That is why you should never intentionally feed bears, keep your property bear wise, and spook bears away when you do see one.

For more information, visit BearWise website at: https://bearwise.org/

Black bear in backyard
Wet bear tracks on a sidewalk along William Street near downtown Parry Sound
Concerned house cat looks on as a bear raids a bird feeder