More Manitobans are out in bear country this year, as pandemic-related lockdowns have residents searching for ways to keep busy.
The province is warning those who decide to go camping, hiking or sightseeing to be prepared for increased bear activity this year.
They’ve also provided some suggestions for how people can be bear aware and prevent wildlife encounters.
“Traveling in groups, making noise, it just alerts them to your presence and gives them an opportunity to avoid an encounter with you,” says Janine Wilmot a human-wildlife conflict biologist from Manitoba’s Wildlife, Fisheries and Resource Enforcement Branch.
She suggests a continuing conversation with the people you’re hiking with or carrying noisemakers such as whistles or even shaking pebbles in a can.
For campers, Wilmot says securing attractants is an important safety step.
“Bringing some wildlife resistant storage containers for your food and also your garbage and any clothes that you’re cooking in, anything along the lines that might smell like food to a bear,” she says.
For families who have a dog, Wilmot suggests leaving them at home when possible.
“It’s really important to have it on a short leash when visiting. Dogs can provoke a negative encounter with a black bear,” she says.
If you do encounter a bear, the best way to tell if it’s agitated is by learning what signs to look for.
“It may show signs of stress by potentially making huffing noises or chomping its jaw, swatting at the ground or having excessive salivation.”
She says in that situation, it’s important to reassure the bear you’re not a threat.
“Talk to it calmly, let it know that you’re human while you back away from the situation and give it some room.”
Black bears will occasionally leave their cubs unattended while foraging for food. However, Wilmot suggests calling a conservation officer if you suspect a potentially orphaned bear cubs, and advises to not approach them.