Police issue warning, offer tips after black bear sightings

WELLINGTON COUNTY – Police are warning area residents after three recent black bear sightings in rural areas in two different municipalities.

On May 26 at about 9am Wellington County OPP officers were called to the area of 1st Line and Erin-Garafraxa Townline in Erin, southwest of Orton near the border with Centre Wellington, for a report of a black bear in the area.

Police say there was “evidence to suggest a bear wandered onto some properties during the night.”

The next day, at about 8:30pm, the OPP was called for a bear sighting in the area of 4th Line and Halton-Erin Townline, between Crewsons Corners and Balinafad, where a witness captured images of a black bear on their property.

On May 29 at about 6:30am, the OPP responded to reports of a black bear in the area of Wellington Road 124 just south of Guelph Lake in Guelph-Eramosa.

Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) officials say residents can reduce the chances of attracting bears by:

  • storing garbage in bear-resistant, airtight containers inside a storage area not accessible to bears;
  • washing garbage containers and dumpsters frequently using a strong disinfectant to reduce odours;
  • putting out garbage the morning of garbage collection and not the night before;
  • keeping pet food indoors;
  • removing grease and food residue from barbecue grills, including the grease trap, after each use;
  • putting away bird feeders until the winter months;
  • turning compost regularly and keeping meat, fish or sweet foods like fruit out of composters;
  • keeping meat and fish scraps in the freezer until garbage collection day; and
  • picking fruits and berries from trees as they ripen and from the ground.

The MNRF offers the following tips for anyone who encounters a bear:

  • if your personal safety is at risk, call 911 or local police;
  • remain calm – often the bear is just passing through, and will move on if no food is found;
  • if a bear is in a tree, leave it alone and remove other people/pets from the area;
  • keep away from the bear, and do not block its exit;
  • tell others of its location and warn them to keep away, and bring children/pets indoors;
  • if near a building or car, get inside as a precaution
  • if the bear was attracted to food or garbage, remove these items after the bear leaves to discourage the bear from returning;
  • keep dogs on leash and away from bears; and
  • call the Bear Wise line toll-free at 1-866-514-2327 for advice on how to avoid human-bear encounters during bear season (April 1 to Nov. 30).

The ministry also offers tips for those approached by a bear:

  • slowly back away, watching the bear;
  • do not turn and run; make noise, throw rocks or sticks and make yourself appear as big as possible;
  • carry a noise-making device such as a whistle or air horn, and use it if necessary;
  • if the bear continues to approach you, keep backing away slowly while acting aggressively towards the bear;
  • if you are carrying bear repellent, make sure you are familiar with the product and how it is used, using it only if the bear is attacking you or is extremely close to you;
  • if a bear does attack, do not play dead unless you are sure it is a mother bear attacking you in defence of cubs; and
  • fighting back is the best chance of persuading a bear to stop its attack, so use a large stick, a rock, or anything else that you can to deter the bear.

If a bear poses an immediate threat to public safety by exhibiting threatening or aggressive behaviour, call 911 or the OPP at 1-888-310-1122.

For advice on reducing bear attractants, call the Bear Wise reporting line toll-free at 1-866-514-2327; hearing impaired (TTY) 1-705-945-7641. Callers will be connected directly with a live operator during bear season (April 1 to Nov. 30).

For more information visit ontario.ca/bearwise.