Ontario is bear country and from now until October is a bear’s time to forage. These large and hungry creatures spend nearly all their waking hours 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 visitors.
The presence of bears in camps or worksites 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.
Prevention – Working in the bush
Worksites and camps 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 and beech.
- Annual training for staff on the risks of working in bear country
- A system to manage food and 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, such as:
- Temporary electric fencing to surround a camp or worksite
- Bear spray and air horns available to workers
- Aversion and deterrent procedures when working outside of camp, such as:
- Bear spray, whistles and/or air horns provided to workers
- Working in a group or in close proximity to other workers
- Where possible, avoid carrying food and eating outside of camp or a vehicle
- Make noise when travelling through the bush on foot
The MNR’s Bear Wise website provides information on reducing preventable causes of human-bear conflicts in Ontario: http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/Bearwise/index.html