Ontario is bear country and April through October is their time to forage; these large, furry and extremely hungry creatures spend nearly all their waking time in search of food. The prospect of an easy meal is hard for a bear to resist; and if your worksite inadvertently provides this, you’ll soon have an unwanted and dangerous guest on your list of daily visitors.
This summer mining and prospecting crews have been reporting an increase in bear sightings. The presence of bears in camps presents an immediate danger to workers and also compromises the bear’s natural instincts to look for food in the wilderness. Once a wild bear makes the transition to nuisance bear often the only solution is to have the bear destroyed or relocated. Deterring the presence of bears is beneficial to both humans and bears.
Exploration sites or any worksites located in remote areas should have a program in place to deter bear encounters. The program should include:
- A risk assessment to determine the initial location of the camp: Bears are attracted to berry patches, as well as mountain ash, oak, beech and fruit trees.
- Annual training for staff on the risks of working in bear country.
- A system to manage food and food waste including odours. A variety of ‘bear-resistant containers’ are available on the market; this can include a heavy polycarbonate container with a screw-on lid.
- Aversion and deterrent procedures if a bear is spotted entering a camp. The MNR recommends the following deterrents:
- Temporary electric fencing to surround a camp or worksite
- Bear spray
- Air horns
- A paint-ball gun with a flat line barrel and ammunition of biodegradable gel caps
The MNR’s Bear Wise website provides information on reducing preventable causes of human-bear conflict in Ontario: