Bear calls to Sudbury police double in last year

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry says a lack of berries is partly causing an influx of black bears into Sudbury — and police say they're overrun by unnecessary phone calls about bear sightings.

Black bears usually don't pose a threat and will move on when they can't find food, MNRF says

Sudbury police are asking the public to stop calling them to report non-threatening bears in the city. File photo. (Sherry Forte)

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry says a lack of berries is in part to blame for an influx of black bears into Sudbury — and police say they're overrun by unnecessary phone calls about bear sightings.

Sudbury police Sergeant Randy Hosken said tracking bears is not considered core police business.

Police have received 720 phone calls about nuisance bears so far this year. That's double the number from last year.

Hosken said people shouldn't expect police to respond to every call, unless the bear poses an immediate threat, such as trying to enter your home or killing your pets. The majority of the calls have been coming from the New Sudbury area, a police press release noted.
Sudbury police say bear tracking is not considered a "core police business." (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

"If ... you see a bear in the neighbourhood [or] you see a bear in your yard, we're asking people to call the Bearwise number," Hosken said.

But according to the ministry, you don't have to call them either.

The Sudbury branch of the MNRF dealt with 258 bear-related calls last week, compared to just 28 in the same week last year.

"The police are equipped for a quick response. And MNR is not," said Mike Hall, a ministry biologist in Sudbury.

"If they are looking for advice on how to avoid attracting bears on to their property, they can certainly call the Bearwise line ... and we can provide information on how to avoid attracting bears."

Usually just looking for food

In 2012, the MNRF cancelled its bear trap and release program because they found bears usually returned to the area from where they were relocated.

Hosken said black bears usually don't pose a threat and will move on when they can't find food.

"In my experience ... as a police officer, when I show up for the call where there was a bear sighting, or a bear in the area, the bear is gone."

This is the time of year is where bears are looking to put on weight for the next year.

Black bears are extremely hungry this year due to an unusual low volume of berries compared to previous years. As a result, they will come into the community because food sources are made available to them by citizens, police stated.

"Bears have an amazing sense of smell and are attracted to recently used barbecues, garbage containers, compost bins, bird feeders and pet food."

Police offered the following examples of when a bear poses an immediate threat to personal safety:

  • enters a school yard when school is in session;
  • enters or tried to enter a residence;
  • wanders into a public gathering;
  • kills livestock/pets and lingers at the site;
  • stalks people and lingers at the site.

Police also offered the following bear prevention tips:

  • Whenever possible, put your garbage to the curb the day of pick-up instead of the night before. Clean garbage containers and recycle bins with strong disinfectant and consider the use of bear resistant cans.
  • Store your barbecue in a safe place, where bears cannot get at it. Clean your barbecue immediately after every use by washing the grill or burning off the smell, food residue and grease.
  • Do not put fruits, vegetables, meat products, fish or dairy products into your outdoor compost. Only grass and hedge clippings should be placed in outdoor compost bins.
  • Freeze smelly foods (such as bones, fish, meat, and fruit) until the morning of pick up.
  • If you must leave pet food outside or want to set up bird feeders, make every effort to keep them where bears cannot access them and remove bird feeders containing seed, suet, and honey. If you have berry bushes or fruit trees in your yard, ensure that you pick them as they ripen.

Police added that, once bears find a non-natural food source, they will return again and again.

What to do if you encounter a bear:

  • Remain calm - Often the bear is just passing through. If it doesn't find a food source, it will move on.
  • Drop any food you are carrying - empty your pockets, drop your lunch or backpack to the ground.
  • Slowly back away - Don't turn your back. Do not run.
  • If a bear is in your yard, stay indoors and do not approach it.
  • Warn others to keep away - Make loud noises.
  • Tell your neighbours a bear is in the area.
  • Do not take matters into your own hands, this can result in aggressive bear behaviour.

A bear may display defensive behaviours towards humans if:

  • it is scared, intimidated / harassed (for example, a person or dog enters its personal space);
  • it is defending its food (carcass, garbage) or their cubs;
  • the bear's escape route is cut off.



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