Photograph by Jennifer Howard

Spring is upon us after a long up and down winter. Green grass, flowers peeking up. Birds arriving back. Babies being born. Frogs at full chorus. Turtles coming up for air to start their lives again. All things we wait patiently for.

Spring means “life.”

And bears, emerging from their dens. Some with beautiful little new cubs in tow. All part of spring’s arrivals. And part of what l for one, look forward to. This month I will talk about bears; an animal more and more of us are seeing with urban development in constant motion, habitat loss and human encroachment all around us.

You see, we are in their habitat; they are not in ours. We have displaced them. Simple as that. See a bear! No need to panic. They have a healthy fear of us humans. No need to call the police. Just leave it be. It will move on. If it is in your yard, get a green garbage bag, wave and flap it around yelling GO AWAY BEAR. It will run away, not being too impressed with its human encounter. That is what you want. Sow’s and cubs are now starting to emerge from their dens.

It is a myth that bears come out hungry, truth is they don’t. But! They are food motivated, so taking in bird feeders, making sure your BBQ is clean and putting garbage out the morning of are good practices to now get into. If you compost don’t put meat or eggs in there, bears love eggs and will be attracted to the smell of meat.

Bears attacking humans is extremely rare. The last known attack by a sow protecting her cubs was in 1900. It just doesn’t happen. But what will happen is she will put her cubs safely up a tree and she will act out to try to scare you off to protect them. She will do what they call a bluff charge, stamp her feet, clack her teeth, make grunting snorting sounds but bears do not growl. That is a myth.

Photograph by Jennifer Howard

They only “growl” in the movies; a Trick of the Trade. But she won’t attack. Making eye contact with a bear is a good thing to do. Talk to them, show them the intent is not to harm them or their cubs, back away and leave, she will gather her cubs and leave to. She wants nothing to do with you. If you fear her that’s okay, because she fears you as well. You want to keep it that way. Win-win I would say.

Should you walk your dog off leash, and it encounters and chases a bear, that bear will get aggravated and quite possibly start to chase the dog, following the dog back to you. Always walk dogs on leash. It is the law. Unless in an off-leash park. And it is for your safety, your dogs’ safety, AND, all wildlife’s safety. It is illegal to let your dog chase wildlife of any kind.

Now for some interesting facts on bears. The breeding season is from May to early July. Ever wonder why some bears have multiple cubs? This is an interesting fact. The female can mate with more than one male. The eggs “float” around until denning season arrives and she is in good shape. Then the fertilized eggs (blastocysts) are implanted and the process begins. The number of times, she mates, produces those multiple cubs. For example, 3, 4 or even 5 cubs.

Cubs are with mom for 1.5 to 2 years. Bears mate every two years. A female’s gestation is 60 days. And she can mate again in another 60 days. Cubs are born in the den during hibernation in January. Cubs weigh approximately 227 to 450 grams at birth and are helpless. When they leave mom at 1.5 years, they weigh in at around 50 to 70 lbs. Siblings may stay together for two years because bears are very social animals.

Another myth is adult males kill cubs; they rarely kill cubs.

Bears are omnivores which means they are primarily a vegetarian, although they will sometimes eat meat. However, they do not see humans as food.

Photograph by Jennifer Howard

Females can weigh up to 100kg. Males especially large ones can reach 227 kg. Bears are full grown at 10 to 12 years and females mature sexually at 5 to 7 yrs.

Carrying bear spray is your best defence, if you surprise a bear, spray a “cloud” of bear spray when the bear is about a car length away. It will not want to cross that cloud and it will let the bear know humans are not acceptable, whispering or humming are also not good if you’re walking. Just talk normally. Make noise.

Bears can see in colour and have very keen noses and eyes and can smell 2 km away.

Bears can live to 40 years of age. But less than1% make it to old age in this world of humans versus wildlife. It’s very sad.

One last thing I really want to touch on is when you go camping. Never ever leave any food out or dirty dishes. Store only in your car and if it’s a hatchback or SUV, cover that cooler. If bears have been food rewarded, they will remember what a cooler looks like, and yes, could break into your car. Yes, I am serious, they remember coolers as a food source. Bears are attracted to scent, which means toothpaste, shampoo, suntan location, etc., etc. You get what I mean. Keep everything in your car, nothing in your tent or yurt.

Be safe. Never throw dishwater away, take it and dump it down an outhouse, that’s right, no kidding there. Personally, my sniffer would not want to go their either. Keep it clean, keep it safe, for you and the bears. Keep them wild. Their lives depend on that.

If a mother is harassed enough, she may abandon her cubs; it’s rare but can happen and that would be devastating to her cubs. So please leave them be, keep them wild and safe.

All of this may sound like a lot. But the reality is it’s not, it is common sense for the most part. And each life is lived only once. So, we need to be respectful and responsible. If you do need help with known orphans or an injured bear contact the following:

Bear With Us Sanctuary at 705 685 7830. Check them out at http://bearwithus.org/

We can keep them, us, our kids and our pets safe by being bear smart.

I am getting a presentation together that I am hoping many will attend. Bear With Us Sanctuary and Coyote Watch Canada are teaming up for a great informative presentation. A must come and learn night. I’m waiting on a location approval. Stayed tuned as I will be advertising it.

Hope to see you there!

Jennifer Howard

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The “Bare” Facts About Bears
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