Bear sightings on the rise in northeastern Ontario, MNRF says
So far, MNRF reports an increase in sightings this year compared to last
Residents across northeastern Ontario are reporting bear sightings to their local municipalities and the province.
According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, there has been an increase in calls. Across the region, the ministry has received 214 calls so far this year about nuisance bears. Last year during the same time period, the ministry received 143 calls.
Karen Passmore, a regional outreach specialist with the ministry, says the majority of calls involve non-natural food sources for bears, such as bird feeders.
"But it's likely the increase in calls is related to natural food availability," she said.
"So if natural foods are good and bears are getting what they need to eat, then human bear encounters tend to decrease. If natural foods are low, then that's when they're going to seek out easily available food like garbage and bird feeders."
Passmore says the cool spring in the region resulted in a late start to the growing season. She says now that temperatures have warmed up, that could change the food supply for bears.
"That may lead to a decrease in calls. We don't know but that's our hope," she said.
Passmore says many calls have also been about bear families.
"So that's female bears with two or three or even four cubs," she said.
"Last year, food crops were better than normal across the region. We do know if bears are in good health and they're well topped up when they go into hibernation, that there's a better chance of females having multiple cubs so that's what they're seeing this year."
'Just passing through'
Passmore says the number of calls about bears is also up in the Sudbury area, but city councillor Al Sizer says the city itself has received a similar number of calls compared to last year. He's also head of the city's bear committee.
"It certainly hasn't been as bad as it has been in the past," he said about the number of sightings.
"They're not lingering. They're just passing through which is good."
Sizer says he's encouraging people in Sudbury to report bear sightings on the city-run Report-A-Bear website. He says that data is readily available to the public.
"If you're planning, and especially with this COVID pandemic we're facing, if you're planning on going for a walk you can quickly refer to the bear map and see if there has been activity in that area," he said.
"It may allow you to either put off your walk or change the location for the time."
The ministry says to avoid bear encounters, put out your garbage the day it is collected, only have bird feeders out during the winter months and clean your barbecue regularly.