Black bear sightings put southwestern Ontario residents on alert

OPP report two bear sightings this week in Lambton Shores and Plympton-Wyoming, located about an hour's drive from Sarnia and London.

A 300-pound black bear wandered into a resident's backyard in Lambton Shores this week

Black bears have been spotted in Lambton Shores. The bear in this photo was seen in Sudbury, where black bears regularly wander into the city. (File photo)

Recent bear sightings in southern Ontario have put some residents and police on high alert.

A resident of Plympton-Wyoming — about 35 kilometres east of Sarnia — spotted a black bear in a farmer's field. This came just a day after 300-pound black bear wandered into the backyard of a resident in Lambton Shores.

Both sightings were close to urban areas of Sarnia and London, where experts say the chances of seeing a black bear are quite low, but not impossible. Police were unable to track the animal in each of these incidents.

Bears can migrate away from their typical habitats of heavy forest, explained Mike McIntosh, who works with the province to deal with bear and human conflicts.

"If a bear gets down that far, it's usually by accident," he said of the chances of a bear heading to Sarnia or London. "If a bear roams into a city, it's definitely done it by accident. It's lost."

London bear

Black bears have made their way to London before, including back in 2010 when one was tracked by police at length before being shot and killed. 

The male bear was first seen near the London Hunt and Country Club. Police later caught up with the animal across the Thames River and stayed with the bear until ministry crews could arrive. 

Animal control officers didn't make it on time, though, and eventually the bear charged at a police officer and was shot.

McIntosh, who is also the founder of Bear With Us Sanctuary and Rehabilitation Centre remembers the incident. He says most often a bear can be contained peacefully and moved to a more natural environment.

Lost bears

Any bear wandering that far south will usually be a young male cub, who set out looking to establish its own territory, said McIntosh.

"It'll be a young male, who's been looking for a home range and doesn't have much experience and kind of gets lost," he said.

Bears are spotted in areas of southwestern more often in recent years, say both both the OPP and Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources.

"In the past few years we have seen bear and moose inhabit areas of Lambton County," explained the region's OPP in a news release.

Residents are urged to alert the ministry and police, should they encounter a black bear.