Bear sightings up in Fredericton

Four live bear traps have been set up across Fredericton to deal with a seasonal increase in bear sightings.

Black bear population growing across New Brunswick

Fredericton has four live bear traps set up across the city. 1:56

Bear sightings are up in Fredericton, as they are every summer in the city.

But Department of Natural Resources ranger Hurst Gannon says there's no need for concern.

"Most people see bears, but they often see the tail-end of them," said Gannon. "Generally they’re looking for food and when you disturb them they get startled and run away."

Still, four live bear traps have been set up across the city.

The summer heat heightens the smells of garbage, pet food, bird feeders, and BBQs. Those smells often lure bears out of the woods and into urban and suburban areas.

A bear’s principal sense is smell and they often find the wafting scent of an easy meal of hot garbage too enticing to pass up.

They spend months fattening up as much as possible to prepare for winter hibernation.

Bear population on rise

The bear population is up in the province, according to Kevin Craig, a biologist with the Department of Natural Resources.

It was about 13,000 to 14,000 about eight to 10 years ago, he said. But now there are about 17,000 black bears in New Brunswick.

Craig says that is due to a number of reasons, hunting trends being one of them.

Thirty-five years ago, New Brunswick sold more than 12,500 bear hunting licences. Last year, it sold barely over 5,000.

More bears in the woods coupled with expanding urban and suburban areas may mean more bear encounters.

It’s also a time of year where juvenile bears are being forced into independence by their mothers.

Female black bears breed once every two years. Cubs stay with their mother for two full years, but when mating season occurs, she drives her "teenaged" cubs away in preparation for new offspring, said Craig.

"It’s a time of the year where these teenagers are independent for the first time," he said. "They’re wandering, looking for their own territory. So they may wind up places you wouldn’t always see them."

More encounters don’t necessarily mean more danger, said ranger Hurst Gannon. He has never responded to a bear attack.

"None," he said. "The only case I've even heard of in the last three years that would even be remotely be considered an attack, which it wasn't, was two gentleman hunting got between a mother and her cubs and the mother chased them up a tree where they stayed for an hour until someone came along."

Gannon says there is no reason for panic, but that bears should still be respected.

"Personally I'm more afraid of a moose," said Gannon. "But you should treat any wild animal with respect — from raccoons, to squirrels, anything will bite you if it's threatened."

A list of all fatalities due to black bear attacks in North America was completed in 2011 by the University of Calgary. It listed a total of 63 people killed since the year 1900 by black bears.