Skip to content

MNR wants citizens to be 'bear wise'

BY MIKE SIMMS Black bears are waking up after their long winter’s nap. In response, the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) has launched the Bear Wise program for the fourth year.

BY MIKE SIMMS

Black bears are waking up after their long winter’s nap. In response, the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) has launched the Bear Wise program for the fourth year.


“Anybody who lives in an area populated by bears has a chance to come into contact with a bear,” said Jolanta Kowalski,  a spokesperson for the MNR. “If bears find an easy food source, and they have an incredible sense of smell and memory, they will return unless that’s cleaned up.”


Garbage is the main attraction for the bears because they are opportunistic omnivores, she said.


“(Bear Wise) is designed to reduce human/bear conflict,” she said.


The program is based on the principles of education, prevention, reporting and response.


The program also provides money to communities for bear awareness initiatives.  Fifty-eight communities received $834,760 for 75 projects in 2006, according to a ministry news release.


Educational material is available at the MNR website and printed information is distributed through various venues.

Next year, the ministry is planning a program to teach elementary students about the dangers posed by bears.
The ministry advises citizens never to feed the bears.


If a bear is becoming a nuisance in your area, the MNR wants citizens to report it. “Our people will come out to figure out what’s happening,” and why they’re attracted to the area, Kowalski said.


The other thing people can do to protect themselves is to install bear-proof garbage cans and electric fences, she said. 


Shooting bears, other than in self-defence, is illegal, and all killings must be reported to the ministry.
The black bear populates most of Northern Ontario.

With a slight increase of more than 5,000 extra bears since the cancellation of the spring bear hunt, the ministry estimates Ontario’s black bear population at more than 105,000.


“There was no connection with the cancellation of the spring bear hunt and human bear problems,” Kowalski said.  “It’s been proven scientifically.”


She points to the conclusions of the Nuisance Bear Review Committee, which began its work in 2002.  Completed in 2003, the committee found little connection between the cancellation of the spring bear hunt and bear overpopulation. However, the committee did recommend a limited spring bear hunt for socio-economic reasons.

Kowalski reminds citizens there is still an extended fall bear hunt.


Due to the effects of global warming, bears have made inroads into the south.


“They (bears) have moved south, while we have moved north,” she said.


The ministry suggests the public is misled in its perception of a growing bear population. A growing human population in “cottage country” and the surrounding area is a “credible explanation” to the problem, according to the ministry.

The Ministry of Natural Resources toll-free number to call in case of bear trouble is 1-866-514-BEAR(2327). More information about bears is available from the ministry’s web site at the ontario.ca/bearwise.


“We’re really happy that communities are getting the message,” Kowalski  said.  “We need to co-exist with bears.”


Comments

Verified reader

If you would like to apply to become a verified commenter, please fill out this form.