Sudbury police to 'triage' 911 bear calls

The Greater Sudbury Police have created a new 'system to respond to bear sightings. Inspector John Somerset says the purpose of the system is to redirect, or “triage” 911 bear calls to the proper person.

66 bear sightings called into police so far this year, but not all deemed urgent

Police in Sudbury, Ont.,hope that a new hotline will allow them to attend to the proper bear sightings. The Groulx family had a black bear break into their south end residence early in 2016. (File photo)

The Greater Sudbury Police have created a new system to report bear sightings, hoping that a "triage" approach allows them to direct resources to the most urgent of calls.

Inspector John Somerset says the new approach takes 911 callers through a series of steps to determine whether the situation is dangerous or not. They can notify police where the bear was spotted, and alert them to any behaviours that may be considered a safety risk.

People may feel safer calling the police than the [Ministry]- Inspector John Somerset, Greater Sudbury Police Services

A trapped or injured bear, or a bear acting aggressively, says Somerset, would be considered a higher risk than a bear rummaging through a composter.

Critical situations would include when a bear enters a school yard, tries to enter a house, attacks a pet, or "stalks" people.

Once the 911 call has been "triaged," a dispatcher can then determine the amount of resources directed to the call.

Although the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry already operates a bear sighting hotline, Somerset says that Sudbury residents still contact police, often dialing 911, for non-emergency bear wanderings.

That's understandable, says Somerset.

"People may feel safer calling the police than the [Ministry,]" he says.

So far, 66 calls about nuisance bears have been received by the GSPS.

Although the new system allows officers to quickly respond to urgent calls, says Somerset, Sudbury bear sightings are an "ongoing issue" and it still falls on the community to ensure bears aren't being unduly drawn into the city.

Food, compost, and garbage are the main culprits.

"People need to see what's attracting bears to their areas," says Somerset, "and manage the attractants."

with files from Samantha Lui. Edited/packaged by Casey Stranges