The MD has received numerous reports regarding the surge in bear sightings and human interactions in the region.
You can run into a bear anywhere here in Lesser Slave. Bears generally prefer to avoid people. However, encounters between bears and people do occur. The MD has received numerous reports of increased bear sightings and interactions with humans.
Knowing how to avoid an encounter with a bear is the best way to enjoy the region, safely. In the event you do come across a bear, it is important to know a bit about bear behaviour. How we respond in an encounter with a bear really depends on the type of interaction that is taking place.
Avoid an encounter: the best approach
Bears are extremely sensitive to the stress of human activity. You can help protect them by avoiding encounters with them.
- Make noise! Let bears know you’re there.
- Call out, clap, sing or talk loudly especially near streams, dense vegetation and berry patches, on windy days, and in areas of low visibility. Bear bells are not enough.
- Watch for fresh bear signs. Tracks, droppings, diggings, torn-up logs and turned-over rocks are all signs that a bear has been in the area. Leave the area if the signs are fresh.
- Keep your dog on a leash at all times or leave it at home. Dogs can provoke defensive behaviour.
- Larger size groups are less likely to have a serious bear encounter. We recommend hiking in a tight group of four or more.
- Never let children wander.
- Use officially marked paths and trails and travel during daylight hours.
- If you come across a large dead animal, leave the area immediately.
- Dispose of fish offal in fast moving streams or the deep part of a lake, never along stream sides or lake shores.
If you see a bear
Stop and remain calm. Do not run away.
- Get ready to use your bear spray. Know how to use bear spray.
- Is the bear unaware of your presence? Move away quietly without getting its attention.
- Is the bear aware of your presence? Bears may bluff their way out of an encounter by charging and then turning away at the last second. They may also react defensively by woofing, growling, snapping their jaws and laying their ears back.
- Stay calm. Your calm behaviour can reassure the bear. Screams or sudden movements may trigger an attack.
- Speak to the bear. Talk calmly and firmly. This lets the bear know you are human and not a prey animal. If a bear rears on its hind legs and waves its nose about, it is trying to identify you. Back away slowly.
- Never run! Running may trigger a pursuit.
- Make yourself appear BIG.
- Pick up small children.
- If you must proceed, make a wide detour around a bear or wait at a safe distance for it to move on.
If you see a bear by the road
Slow down—consider not stopping. Bears need to forage undisturbed in order to gain enough fat to survive the winter. Your decision to drive on by gives bears the space they need to make a living in this challenging landscape.
- At all times...observe and photograph bears from the safety of your car.
- Remain a respectful distance from the bear.
- Never feed a bear.
- If you stop...be aware of the traffic around you. Pull over where it is safe to do so.
- Use your hazard lights to alert other drivers.
- Watch for a few moments, take a quick photo, and then move on! If a traffic jam develops, move on. It is unsafe for people and bears.
How you can help protect bears
The best thing you can do for bears is to limit their exposure to you. Do not stop when you see a roadside bear.
- Put all garbage in bear-proof garbage bins.
- Keep your picnic or camping site attractant-free.
- Move the food, cooler, dirty dishes, recyclables, BBQ, lotions and pet food into your vehicle, trailer or storage locker (tents are not bear-proof).
- Use official trails only and leave the wild trails to wildlife.
- Pay attention to warnings—follow recommendations.
Bear safety and fishing
- Clean fish at designated cleaning stations. If no station is available, clean fish inside a plastic bag or bucket. Then seal the guts in a plastic bag and deposit the waste in a bear proof garbage container.
- Fish with friends. Make lots of noise and keep an eye on each other.
- Stay attentive near lakeshores, rivers and creeks. These areas are used by wildlife as travel routes and feeding sites.
- Be alert and make as much noise as you can when fishing and moving about in these locations.
- Seal your catch in plastic bags and wash your hands.