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Forest fires may be causing more human-bear encounters

Disruption in food supply biggest reason the animals come to urban areas
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A photo from social media this week shows a bear sauntering down the Silver Hills commercial area in Sudbury. Forest fires can cause bears to move into the city in search of food. (Supplied)

The forest fires this summer around Greater Sudbury could account for some recent bears encounters in the city, says a spokesperson for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

Jolanta Kowalski, senior media relations officer with the MNRF, said there are a number of factors that lead to human-bear encounters, including fires.

"Any time there's a large scale forest fire in a geographic area, wildlife of all kinds can become displaced,” Kowalski said. “And they'll also potentially lose food sources, as well as habitat. That will move them out of an area where they would normally be.

"But the same thing applies when there's a drought or food failure. So the bears going into Sudbury, we don't know for sure if it's cause by the fire."

While social media has been rife lately in Sudbury with pictures and videos of bears rifling through garbage and walking down city streets, Kowalski said the city is a hot spot every year for human-bear encounters and the number of calls are actually down a bit this year, the result of fewer bears or residents getting accustomed to the annual visits.

"So we can't say definitively that the fires are pushing them out of the forest and so they're going into town and getting into trouble and having encounters with people," she said. “But generally, when there's a good natural food year, they tend to stay in the forest. When there's a bad natural food year, they tend to go to populated areas where they can get a quick meal."

The dry weather this summer not only worsened the fire situation, but also affected the natural food available to the bruins. And another factor driving bears closer to the city is their love of blueberries, something the city produces in abundance.

"That's a big contributor, too -- bears enjoy blueberries, and that tends to put them in closer proximity to people,” she said. "So Sudbury tends to get a heck of a lot of bears calls, even in the best of times."

Greater Sudbury has a map that traces bear calls. It can be found here (https://www.greatersudbury.ca/live/animal-services-and-wildlife/wildlife/bears/) and shows there have been 14 calls in the last week. 

Residents are urged to only call 911 if they see a bear and it presents an immediate threat to someone's safety – for example if it's in a schoolyard, trying to get inside a home or kills a pet.

Information on how to prevent encounters with a bear, and what to do if it happens to you, can be found here. (https://www.greatersudbury.ca/live/animal-services-and-wildlife/wildlife/bears/) 




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