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Bears are normally shy of humans and quickly get out of our way when they see us. There are a number of things you can do if you spot a bear on a trail.

  1. Do not approach the bear to get a better look. Slowly back away while watching the bear and wait for it to leave.
  2. If you are near a building or car, get inside it as a precaution. If the bear was attracted to food or garbage, make sure it is removed after the bear leaves to discourage the bear from returning.
  3. It is important to keep dogs away from bears. While a well-trained dog may deter a bear, a poorly trained one may only excite it resulting in the bear following the dog back to its owner.
  4. If a bear is in a tree, leave it alone. Remove people and dogs from the area. The bear will usually come down and leave when it feels safe.
  5. IF A BEAR TRIES TO APPROACH YOU, here is how you should react; Stop. Face the bear. Do not run. If you are with others, stay together as a group. Make sure the bear has a clear escape route, then yell and wave your arms to make yourself look bigger. Use a whistle or airhorn if you have one. The idea is to be aggressive and to persuade the bear to leave. This will work if the bear is still partly afraid of humans.
  6. If these attempts fail to frighten the bear away, slowly back away watching the bear and giving it a wide berth.
  7. Climbing a tree to get away from a bear may offer you little advantage as black bears are excellent tree climbers.
  8. A bear may stand upright to get a better view, make huffing or "popping" sounds, swat or beat the ground with its forepaws or even bluff charge. These are a bear's way of telling you that you are too close. Back off and give the bear more space. If the bear comes within range, use pepper spray if you have it.
  9. Cliffhanger will supply pepper spray as a precaution; chances of ever needing it are highly unlikely but will give our guests peace of mind.

Common Myths About Black Bears

Myth #1
A bear that rears on its hind legs is getting ready to attack. Actually, a black bear standing on its hind legs is usually trying to catch your scent or get a better look at you. Bears rarely attack and when they do it is on all fours, head down, ears pressed back.

Myth #2
Black bears are most dangerous when defending their cubs. Actually, the female black bear only rarely will attack defensively and is most likely to try and warn you off or escape and collect her cubs later. However, it is best not to approach cubs even if they are by themselves. The mother is probably nearby.

Myth #3
Black bears that snap their jaws together or exhale breath suddenly are getting ready to attack. Actually, a black bear exhibiting this behavior is showing signs of fear or anxiety. If a grizzly were acting this way you might have reason to be concerned, as grizzlies may attack if cornered. Black bears on the other hand, will usually run away if frightened.

Myth #4
Bears have poor eyesight. Although bears rely primarily on their sense of smell and keen hearing, their eyesight is at least as good as a humans.

Myth #5
Bears that wander into inhabited areas such as campsites, rural towns, or cottage communities are dangerous. It is often necessary, although unfortunate, to kill these bears. Actually, in Ontario's bear country, it is nearly impossible for a bear to make its daily excursions looking for food without walking through some sort of populated area. A bear on your property could simply be passing through. If you have a recurring problem it generally means something is attracting the bear. Remove the attraction and the bear will go away. As a last resort, it may be possible to relocate the bear. Humans and bears can both live together. We need only to learn and respect their behaviors and not fear them.

Pictures: Flowerpot Island, Tobermory. Tequila Sunrise Cottage. Smokey Head White Bluff Nature Reserve.
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