Bears can be dangerous, and Greater Sudbury Police Service (GSPS) can't be more serious about getting that message out to the public, according to a news release.
Greater Sudbury Police responded to a complaint May 3 at about 8:40 p.m. regarding a large black bear in the area of Burton and Cabot streets. Police learned this bear has been seen periodically around houses and on the street in that area of the city.
Police were also told that youth in the area had been provoking the bear, as well as chasing it. The bear was already gone by the time police responded.
GSPS is concerned about children and youth approaching a wild bear in any manner, let alone trying to provoke it or chase it, Const. Meghan O'Malley said. A bear can run much faster than a human, and, if it feels trapped and decides to chase someone to ward them off, they would stand very little chance of getting away from the bear.
Police are asking parents and teachers to take the time to talk to children and teenagers about the dangers of approaching, harassing or chasing a bear or any other wild animal, O'Malley said. This is for the children’s safety and the safety of others that may have to come to their rescue if a bear decides to attack.
The Ministry of Natural Resources backed that statement. Bear Wise provincial co-ordinator Linda Wall said chasing a bear the way these youth did is “playing a dangerous game.”
“Chasing a bear could potentially trigger a fight-back response, because it could feel threatened,” Wall said.
As of April 29, there were 13 bear-related incidents called into the MNR since the beginning of April, she said. That number is down significantly over the same time frame from last year, when there were 31 calls to the MNR by April 29.
Sudbury tends to have the highest number of human-bear contacts and sightings in the province, Wall said, although the numbers have been dropping significantly over the past few years, “because people are really starting to understand they need to start doing things differently in order to prevent bears from walking into their neighbourhoods.”
Unsecured garbage continues to be the No. 1 attractant for drawing bears into city limits, she said. In Sudbury, many residents put out their garbage the night before collection in unsecured garbage bags, and bears learn to recognize those as a picnic basket.
Bears are only out for about six months, and they need to eat large amounts of food to bulk up to survive the next hibernation period, she said, If a bear doesn't find a food source after three or four visits, it won't come back; however, if a bear comes back time and again, it's because it is being “rewarded” with unsecured garbage, likely put out the night before.
Bears are out a little bit earlier this year, she added. Natural food sources aren't scarce, but they certainly aren't where they should be at this time of year due to the lack of spring showers that usually occur.
“If we could just do a better job of taking down bird feeders before the bears emerge from their dens, and putting out the garbage the morning of instead of the night before, it will go a long way in keeping bears out of our community, so that our children don't get into the situation where they want to challenge a bear,” she said.
Should residents find themselves face to face with a bear, the first thing anyone should do is start to talk, and talk loudly. The idea is to make sure the bear knows you are there and that you are human, Wall said. If you're shorter, put your arms above your head and wave them around to make yourself look taller. If you're near a tree stump, stand on it to make yourself taller than the bear.
If the bear is just standing there, start backing away slowly, she said. If the bear starts to approach, then stand your ground — get loud, yell or use a whistle.
The saying that bears are more afraid of you than you are of it is “absolutely” true, she said. It's when those same bears are allowed to keep eating garbage without consequences that they become more used to human presence.
In the extreme case that a bear does make contact, fight it with everything you've got, she said. The only exception is, if you are between a female bear and her cubs, “experience has told us that sometimes playing dead will lead the female bear to think you are no longer a threat to her cubs and she might leave you alone.”
That is absolutely the only time you should ever do that; otherwise, fight back with everything you have and don't stop, she said.
The MNR offers up numerous tips and facts on its website to minimize the chances of attracting black bears.
- Store garbage in waste containers with tight-fitting lids.
- Put out garbage only on the morning of pickup.
- Put away bird feeders. Seed, suet and nectar also attract bears.
- Clean outdoor grills after each use, including the grease trap underneath. Bears will be drawn by smells from great distances, including grease and food residue on grills.
More information is available at www.ontario.ca/bearwise.
Posted by Laurel Myers