Thu. Dec 7th, 2023
It's May: What are the black bears doing?

Planning a visit and wondering if you’ll see a black bear? Tune in to our monthly Black Bear feature, where our ecologists update you on common bear behavior throughout the month or season.

Spring is just around the corner and Ontario black bears are ready for another feeding season to fatten up for winter hibernation.

While bear cubs stay close to their mothers, yearling bears (bears that are about a year and a half old) may leave and hit the road alone for the first time in search of food. (Your actions really make a difference for the young Black Bears this month!)

Here’s what our bears are up to this month:

The bears look for food.

frost on berries

After emerging from hibernation in March/April, the bears are still regaining the weight they lost during the winter this month.

Spring conditions make a big difference in how hungry bears will be later in the year.

For example, when flowers such as cherry blossoms and blueberries have just emerged, they are at risk of severe frosts.

If a hard frost kills the berry blossoms, no berries will develop. Berries are an important component of the black bear diet. If there are no berries, black bears will have to look for other food sources to fatten up during the winter.

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Yearlings on the move (and following their nose towards new food sources)

Black bear cubs stay with their mother for about a year and a half.

May is when these one-and-a-half-year-old bears are told by their mothers that it’s time to find their own path in life.

black bear cubs

These young black bears need to leave and find a home of their own. They can travel hundreds of kilometers and take years to find available habitat.

During this time, these bears are vulnerable to becoming involved in conflicts with humans. They do not have access to areas of known and reliable natural food sources like older, experienced black bears do.

What does this mean for humans?

It is a critical time to be responsible for how you store your food and other wildlife attractants.

Bears follow the scent of food and have an extremely keen sense of smell. Their sense of smell is many times better than that of a dog.

bear opening container

If this leads them to a campsite, backyard, or other area used by humans and they get food, they will have learned a dangerous lesson. They have learned that they can easily obtain food from humans.

Spending time with humans puts the bear’s life at risk.

Whether in a provincial park, at home or at the cabin, it is our responsibility not to interfere with the lives of wild animals.

How to stay safe (and our amazing bears!) in May

Every month is a good month to be Bear Wise, but with young bears actively searching for new food sources, our actions can make a big difference in May.

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bear at the campsite

Otherwise, you risk attracting a hungry young bear to your campsite. This never ends well for the bear and is a risk for humans as well.

Are you visiting us in May? Give our young black bears the best chance at life

Don’t leave anything out that they can come and investigate.

Ontario parks welcome millions of visitors each year.

Very few visitors to Ontario parks will have the opportunity to see a black bear, but every visitor has the opportunity to help save one!

Be cautious around bears.