The Government of Saskatchewan is urging people to be “bear aware” as the summer winds down.
At this time of year, many bears have already started fattening up for hibernation, which makes them more attracted to possible food sources.
Provincial Wildlife Biologist Matthew Tokaruk says in their hunt for food, bears tend to not be as aware of their surroundings, so it’s important to practice good bear safety when outdoors.
“Traveling in groups, talking, carrying bear spray, and just really following those key things,” said Tokaruk. “And if you encounter a bear, give it it’s distance and usually it’ll just wander off, or if does hang around, then you can back off and leave the area, and that’s usually where it stops right there.”
Tokaruk says only in rare occurrences will you need to use bear spray, as black bears are usually pretty timid around humans.
He adds it can become a problem when bears associate humans with food, which is why it’s illegal to feed a bear, wolf, cougar, or coyote in Saskatchewan.
“If a bear starts to associate people with a food source, whether it’s wrappers or garbage, that animal starts to become habituated,” said Tokaruk. “They just lose that fear of humans, we become something, or somewhere, where ‘hey, if we wander too close, maybe there’ll be a snack for us’, instead of turning around and running the other way. That’s when we end up with nuisance bears, or problem bears.”
He says when bears become too habituated, they usually have to be destroyed, so it’s important to keep your food sealed and clean up after yourself.
He adds it’s important to keep in mind that bears can essentially be found anywhere in the province.
“A lot of Saskatchewan is bear country now, so just be aware that bears are around,” said Tokaruk. “And if you just want information on bears, you can check out www.saskatchewan.ca/wildlifeissues and have a look there. There’s a few good writeups on keeping your yards and cabins safe, and just how to behave in bear country, and how to coexist with these animals peacefully.”