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Wildlife Awareness

By Nicole McGregor

Posted on Thursday October 11, 2018

Living in Petawawa, we are surrounded by wildlife and it is not uncommon to see large animals such as coyotes, wolves, and black bears. Although most wild animals keep their distance from people, it is important to understand what you need to do if you have a close encounter with potentially dangerous wildlife. When in wilderness areas, try and travel in groups of two or more. If travelling through an area where visibility is restricted, try and make noise such as singing, whistling or talking to alert large animals of your presence and always be sure to keep your eyes open and scan your surroundings for wildlife. If you are walking your dog, keep it on a leash as some untrained dogs may unintentionally lead a bear to you. Be sure to pay attention to your surroundings especially if you are gardening or berry picking; rise slowly if you are in a crouched position so you don’t startle any nearby bears – they may be just as interested in the berries as you are.

If you do encounter a black bear while out be sure to stop and remain calm. The bear will likely move away from you to where it feels safe; perhaps run away, climb a tree, or maybe just hang out if it is not threatened by your presence.

If the bear starts acting aggressively during an encounter, you must understand that it is doing so because the bear is afraid of you. Actions such as lowering its head with its ears drawn back while facing you, charging forward and swatting the ground, salivating excessively, making a moaning or huffing noise and making a clacking noise with its teeth and jaws are signs that a bear is stressed by your presence and feels threatened by you. These actions rarely lead to physical contact.

If a bear is displaying the behaviour mentioned above, you should not panic, scream, turn your back on the bear, run, climb a tree or go into water. Instead what you should do is wave your arms to make yourself look bigger and using an assertive voice, tell the bear to go away.

You could blow a whistle or air horn and make as much noise as possible to encourage the bear to leave. If the bear does not leave, you should proceed to calmly leave the same way you came out while keeping an eye on the bear and continuing to make yourself look big.

If the bear was eating from a non-natural food source such as garbage or bird food, remove or secure the item that attracted the bear when it is safe to do so, and encourage others nearby to do the same to avoid future bear encounters.