Black bears live throughout Ontario in forested areas where they can find plenty of food, shelter and dens. Our provincial parks are your home and over 90% of our parks are in bear country.
A sure bear sighting during one of your adventures in Ontario parks can be a lasting memory. It is important to educate yourself about bears before your visit and is a sign of a responsible park visitor.
We want to share space with bears, keeping our human visitors and all our wildlife residents safe.
If you are planning a visit, here are some important black bear safety tips:
Be aware of black bear habits
In Ontario, black bears hibernate from November to April.
During this time, they do not eat, lose body weight, and emerge from their dens in spring hungry and thin.
Black bears are omnivores whose diets consist primarily of vegetation. Because there are few berries or nuts in early spring, they do not begin to gain weight until early July.
Basically, black bears only have five months to eat enough food to survive for an entire year.
This small window of time to gain weight strongly influences black bear behavior.
In years when warm days and rain abound, park visitors may rarely see a black bear on the side of the road, on a hiking trail, high in a tree, or swimming through a river.
However, when natural food sources are scarce due to drought and heat, black bears go to great lengths to find food. This could be a time when campers see them near the campsites.
Learn how to “bear-proof” a campsite
Bears are normally shy around humans and quickly get out of our way.
However, they are very intelligent animals. When they find food at a campsite, they quickly associate people and campsites with food rather than something they should fear. They won’t remain shy if they think they can get a free meal!
Because our visitors are in black bear habitat, it is important to do everything possible to keep ourselves and our campsites clean and free of wildlife attractants.
Wildlife attractants (i.e. things bears will want to eat) include:
- food and food storage containers, such as coolers or plastic storage bags
- dog food dishes
- camp stoves
- Dirty plates
- bird feeders
It is best to store all wildlife attractants in the trunk of your vehicle with the windows closed, where they cannot be seen or smelled.
Additionally, leaving food and other attractants available for wildlife is illegal and violators may be fined and/or evicted under the law. Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Law.
Learn How to “Bear Proof” in the Backcountry
If you are camping in the backcountry, be sure to pack wildlife attractants in several layers of packaging to retain aromas.
Prepare food away from your seat, wash dishes immediately after eating, and save trash for the trip.
Don’t keep anything other than your sleeping bag and pillow in your tent.
Always hang food packages away from tents and cooking areas, at least 4 m from the ground and 2 m from tree trunks.
Know What to Do When Hiking in Bear Country
Pack snacks in several layers of packaging to reduce odors. Do not use headphones and always be aware of your surroundings.
Travel in groups of two or more people and watch for signs of bears.
Always make noise. It’s a good idea to carry a whistle to help scare away bears.
Keep dogs on a leash at all times. An unleashed dog running down the trail could provoke a bear and bring it back to you.
Safety begins with knowledge and preparation.
When you visit our parks, you share the forest with animals, including birds, insects and, yes, black bears.
Remember that encounters with the Black Bear only happen because we visit the forests that are their homes.
Want to know more about what to do if you encounter a bear? Click here.
Safe hiking and camping practices will significantly reduce any risk of encounter. Be sure to consider the storage, preparation and disposal of wildlife attractants. before your next camping trip.
Please respect the bears’ space and be a responsible park visitor.
Learn more about how to be Bear Wise
If you see a bear, call the park ranger or the Bear Wise hotline at 1-866-514-2327. In case of emergency, always call 911 or local police.