Saskatchewan is black bear country. Black bears are found throughout our northern forests, south to the Aspen Parkland and in isolated areas of suitable habitat including the Touchwood Hills, Moose Mountain Provincial Park, Qu'Appelle River Valley and South Saskatchewan River Valley. It is not unusual to see bears on the move, especially adolescents, as they establish new territories and search out food.
Black bears are often secretive and generally avoid people. However, as exceptionally food-motivated animals they may wander into areas people frequent in search of food, especially in years where natural food sources are limited. Bears are omnivorous, feeding on what is easily available and abundant, such as berries, vegetation, insects, fish and occasionally young deer, moose or elk. They are intelligent and will seek out non-natural food sources, including human foods, household waste, pet food and bird seed. It is important to manage these attractants, removing, when possible, during the time of year when bears are active. If they can't find something to eat, they will move on. Bears that start to associate their food with people will quickly become a nuisance and a public safety concern. Bears that become food conditioned and habituated often must be euthanized.
Remember, it is unlawful to feed, or leave food for bears, wolves, cougars and coyotes. This includes feeding these animals on the side of the road. Failure to manage attractants can result in fines. This prohibition does not apply to the use of bait for licensed hunting or trapping purposes, conducting agricultural activities or operating licensed landfills.
To avoid attracting bears
- Never feed or approach a bear or bear cubs.
- Do not get closer for the sake of a photograph.
- Store garbage in a secure building or buy a bear-resistant container and only roll waste or recycle bins out the morning of collection.
- Avoid leaving pet food accessible to wildlife.
- Only use bird feeders in the winter when bears are hibernating.
- Properly clean and store barbeque grills after each use.
Black bears typically avoid people. However, when they are feeding or searching for food, they may not be as aware of their surroundings and can be startled. It's important to practice good bear safety in case of an encounter. Keep aware of your surroundings, hike in groups, be loud, and carry bear spray.
If you encounter a bear
- Stay calm – don't run!
- Make a wide detour, calmly back away, speak in low tones and don't look directly at the bear.
- Never feed or approach a bear or cubs.
- Move towards a tree or rock.
- As a last resort, drop articles of clothing, such as a jacket or hat, to distract the bear.
- Get out your bear spray and prepare to use it.
In most cases, black bears will threaten but not attack. If attacked, defend yourself. DO NOT PLAY DEAD.
Did you know that garbage, pet food, bird feeders, human foods and strong scents may draw bears into communities and campgrounds? Bears that become accustomed to these attractants may have to be destroyed.