Black Bear Safety Tips

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It is getting to be that time of year again when black bears wake up hungry from their winter slumber. Here is some information and safety tips from the province's lands and forestry regarding black bears.

Black bears are intelligent and naturally curious in their continuous search for food. If their curiosity is rewarded by finding food, they quickly learn to seek out similar situations, hoping to reap the same rewards even if it means becoming aggressive. They might continue to return to places where they have found food if the food supply lasts.

Further, a bear will return to these places’ weeks, months, or even in subsequent years, in hopes of again finding food at the same location.

It is the smallest member of the bear family in North America and only bear species in Nova Scotia.
-Adult males can weigh up to 440 pounds and adult females can weigh 264 pounds
- Black bears eat a variety of vegetable and animal matter, including roots, berries, nuts, grasses, insects, fish, small mammals, moose, deer calves and carrion.
- Studies have shown that bears can detect the smell of decaying vegetable matter and carrion up to 1.5 km (one mile) away.

Outside of the fall hunting and snaring seasons, bears can only be killed under the authority of a permit issued by the Department of Lands and Forestry. Normally, this permit is issued in problem situations after other preventative techniques have proven successful.

Preventative Actions:
The most effective way to prevent these situations is to remove (where possible) the attraction of food or to make it difficult to access. Once a bear has found a food source, it will likely return.

If possible, bear-proof garbage cans should be made of metal. If cost is a factor, suitable containers can be made of lumber with a minimum dimension of 2”x6” and bolted together. Garbage bins should have a secure cover that cannot be easily opened by a bear.

Empty bins often and inspect them frequently for signs of damage or rot.

Keep bins away from forest cover that would allow bears to get at garbage undetected. Keep vegetation cleared a few meters around a garbage bin to reduce the chance of humans and bears meeting unexpectedly. Never leave garbage lying about your property, especially around houses and camps.

Do not intentionally feed food scraps to other wildlife such as deer, raccoons, squirrels, birds, or chipmunks that might attract larger scavengers.

If you feed pets outdoors, make sure leftovers and spillage are removed from deck or yard after feeding time.

Avoid bird feeders in areas where bears are common. If you do use bird feeders, clean them regularly, keep seed dry to prevent spoilage and smell, and do not allow spilled seed and husks to accumulate under feeders.

Green bins should be kept in shady by open areas, well away from adjacent forest cover. Meat, fish scraps, and kitchen waste that are likely to develop a strong odor, should be frozen and put in the green bin on the morning of the pickup.

If you see a bear:

Stay at a distance and position yourself so that the bear is downwind from you. You may want to leave the area entirely.

Keep dogs under control when in bear habitat.

When in bear habitat make lots of noise. Some serious encounters between bears and humans occur because the bear was unaware of approaching humans. Talk, sing, carry a portable radio, wear a small bell or rattle a pebble in a tin cup to warn a bear of your presence and give it an opportunity to leave the area.

A dog tied in the yard is a good early warning detection system. Bears are generally afraid of dogs and seldom hang around the vicinity of a barking dog, especially if they have not yet found food in the location. Never approach a bear or offer it food.

If you encounter a bear:
Stay calm, speak in a firm, authoritative voice while you back away. Do not look the bear directly in the eyes. Try to get upwind of the animal.

Move away slowly while facing the animal. Do not block any escape routes for the bear. Drop something – not food - to distract the bear as you move away.

Do not move loud noises, threatening gestures, or sudden moves unless you are being attacked.

Never act physically aggressive towards a bear unless your life depends on it.

If a bear attacks you, fight back with everything you can and make a lot of noise. Use pepper spray if you have it with you. Don’t run.