How to Stay Safe in Wild Animal Territory

Guest Contributor August 01, 2019

In Ontario, we share our land with some beautiful and majestic wildlife. Animals that are found in Ontario parks and rural areas include black bears, moose, caribou, cougars, lynx and bobcats, to name a few. But it’s important to keep our distance from these fellow-creatures when at the cottage or on camping trips. Though attacks are rare, some of these animals, like bears, moose and cougars, can be dangerous when they feel threatened. Others, like raccoons, can just get into your food and eat or destroy your supplies. Also, we should also be respectful of their environment and personal space.

Whether you’re sitting inside your cottage on a scorching day, out for a walk in the trails or camping in one of our parks, take some precautions to avoid wild animal attacks and protect yourself and them.

Around the Cottage and Campground.

Do your best to reduce the allure of your cottage or campsite to curious and hungry animals. Bears, raccoons, and other animals are attracted to food and items that emit strong odours. These include lotions, soaps and other cosmetics with perfumes.

Reduce the risk of animal invasion by keeping your food, toiletries and garbage inaccessible. If there is no food or garbage around, and no yummy smells, wild animals will lose interest.

Store your garbage in bear-proof containers or in your garage until it’s ready to be picked up or dropped off at a local facility. Put the garbage out on the morning of pickup and not the night before. Keep your food indoors in airtight and odour-free containers and be sure to put away your picnic leftovers. Be sure to clean the BBQ grill and put away any leftover food as soon as you’re done. This includes pet food.

Though bears are mainly omnivorous (they eat both plants and meat), they are primarily interested in berries, nuts, seeds and insects. If you don’t give them an invitation to visit (leaving out garbage, food, etc.), chances are pretty good that they’ll leave you well enough alone.

When camping, store your food in your car or up in a tree. You can also rent bear lockers at many parks. Do not keep food or toiletries in your tent with you.

Exploring or Hiking.

When venturing off into the forest for a walk or hike, don’t go unprepared. For protection against bears, bring along a can of bear spray and carry it on your hip for easy access in case of emergency. Also carry a whistle or air horn to frighten it away.

If you do encounter a bear, follow these guidelines:

Do

  • Back away slowly, while keeping the bear in sight. Wait for it to leave.
  • If the bear does not leave, wave your arms, throw objects, and make noise with the whistle or air horn.
  • Prepare to use bear spray.
  • If you are near a vehicle or building get inside.

Do not

  • Run, climb a tree or swim — the bear is better at these things than you are.
  • Kneel down.
  • Make direct eye contact.

The bear is unlikely to attack. If it does:

  • Use bear spray.
  • Fight back as hard as you can
  • Do not play dead unless you are sure it is a mother bear attacking to defend her cubs.*

You might also encounter other wild animals like moose. Moose, deer and elk, all of which may also attack if they feel threatened.

If you encounter these animals watch them from a distance. If one approaches you, back off and look for something to hide behind. If the animal charges, run and hide behind the nearest obstruction. Always be cautious. Never hike while wearing headphones, stay alert to your surroundings and keep dogs leashed.

Also, never approach an animal to take a picture or a selfie. This is dangerous.

Use common sense and follow guidelines to live happily and safely with our wildlife neighbours.

Sources.

Preventing human and wild animal conflicts.

Be Bear Wise.