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Bears awake and hungry, be bear-wise and safe

The Ontario government and the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) remind you to exercise caution as black bears begin to come out of hibernation this spring.

Bears waking from hibernation face a scarcity of natural food sources, leading them to look for food in garbage cans and bird feeders.

You can prevent bears from visiting your home and neighbourhood by:

  • Storing garbage in waste containers with tight-fitting lids (indoors if possible)
  • Waiting until pickup day to put out garbage
  • Storing bird feeders for the spring (you can offer birds natural alternatives, such as flowers, nesting boxes and fresh water)
  • Cleaning food residue and grease from outdoor barbecue grills, including grease traps, after each use
  • Keeping pet food indoors

Bears entering your community are not necessarily a threat, but it is important to know who to call if you encounter one. The province operates a non-emergency, toll-free Bear Wise reporting line (1-866-514-2327). The line is open 24/7 from April 1 to November 30.

If a bear is posing an immediate threat by exhibiting threatening or aggressive behaviour, remain calm and call 911 or your local police department.

Quick Facts

  • Visit Bear Wise to learn more about how to avoid attracting bears and what to do if you encounter one
  • Bears will remember their last source of food and return there when hungry, sometimes travelling over 100 kilometres

Bear Encounters — Who Do I Call?

Bears may wander into urban areas in search of food, but not every bear sighting is an emergency. Know who to call if you encounter a bear:

Non-Emergency Encounters

Call the toll-free Bear Wise reporting line at 1-866-514-2327 (TTY 705-945-7641) if a bear is:

  • Moving through a backyard or field but is not lingering
  • Roaming around the neighbourhood
  • Checking garbage cans
  • Breaking into a shed where garbage or food is stored
  • Knocking over a barbecue
  • Pulling down a bird feeder
  • In a tree

This line operates 24-hours a day, seven days a week, from April 1 to November 30. Staff can provide advice about bear behaviour, how to avoid human-bear encounters, and how to manage attractants on your property.

Emergency Situations

Call 911 or your local police force if a bear poses an immediate threat to personal safety. Some threatening or aggressive behaviours include:

  • Entering a schoolyard when school is in session
  • Stalking people and lingering on-site
  • Entering or trying to enter a residence
  • Wandering into a public gathering
  • Killing livestock/pets and lingering on site.

Police are first responders for any emergency. If requested by police, the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry may respond to emergencies to assist during daylight hours.

Visit ontario.ca/bearwise for tips on how to prevent human-bear encounters and avoid attracting bears.

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