As black bears begin to emerge from hibernation, officials say it's important to know how to avoid potentially dangerous encounters.
"Whatever you do, don't run," says Dale Gienow, owner of the Muskoka Wildlife Centre in Gravenhurst, Ontario. "Contrary to popular belief, bears are very fast. A black bear can run faster than a racehorse over a short period of time," Gienow explains.
Experts suggest making a lot of noise when walking down hiking trails to warn the animals of your approach. It's also a good idea to keep a bear spray on hand.
Bears are also starting to creep into populated areas, including backyards, where they're searching for new sources of food.
"They’re coming out of hibernation, they start eating slowly, they’ll be grazing on grass and clover, they’ll be getting their digestive system back in functioning order, and then they’ll start looking for food," says Christine Miller of the North Shore Black Bear Society in BC. "And if the food is near people’s houses and there’s garbage or bird feeders that are accessible they’ll come right on in and help themselves."
Miller recommends packaging odorous foods in a container and freezing it until the morning of garbage collection to help keep your yard bear free.
Here are some helpful tips to avoid home bear encounters:
Other things to keep in mind about bears:
Serious bear attacks are relatively rare. Statistics suggest there is only one per year in North America.