Living with Muskoka Bears


   I live in Muskoka with lots of wildlife, that’s one of the hundreds of  reasons  I love it here.  When I lived in Glen Orchard (a drive thru town near Port Carling) we had a black bear that would walk through the property(5 acres) everyday, she would stop and check out the pool and continue on.  At that time we had 2 small children, lots of beautiful flowers tons of berries and a couple of tomato plants (not much of a gardener) she would just wander through on her regular route  to a small dump area near a resort just up the road.  We never had trouble with this big black bear (guess we were lucky) and I never worried about the kids playing outside, we were walking up the road one day and had seen a cub standing on its hind legs wondering who the heck we were , sooo  knowing mama would be near by we just turned around and went back home and he kept eating…’s part of living in an area like this.  I have seen dumpsters on resort properties and it’s no wonder the bears come to feast,  lids on dumpsters are often not closed and are overflowing with trash.  Not to mention the yummy smells coming from the kitchens.

I had never heard so many stories of bears getting into garbage and entering peoples homes as I have over the last few years, we had always gone camping for family vacations and would go to my grandparents cottage in Collingwood (Loooovvvveeeeddddd it) and never had encounters with bears. We were  taught to watch out for them along with all the other critters as we were taught street smarts growing up in Willowdale.

Every year Northern Ontario areas are becoming more and more of a desired vacation spot then ever before, people are building cottages,bunkies, boathouse , massive hotels and golf courses in areas that are in or near prime bear habitat.  We share our environment with all other living things including bears.  We need to remember that our actions affect habitat and everything that lives in it, we often think that the bears,raccoons etc. are entering our habitat when  really we share it with them . People like walking in the woods, swimming in the lakes, and privacy.  So do the bears.

Bears need to consume large quantities of food in a very short time.  Their natural food varies from each season depending on weather etc.  When natural food sources are hard to find black bears will travel long distances to find a food source, they prefer natural foods but will eat almost anything we eat to survive.

 Bears’ need for food is so great that they will check out smells like grease and food residue left on a bbq.  This instinct to survive drives bears to human caused “unnatural”food sources especially when we’ve had a summer as hot and dry as this one!  Human-bear conflicts are the result of human action or inaction, people can change, the bears not so much.  We have to make sure garbage and bbqs are cleaned up and unnatural food sources are not accessible to bears.

Seed, suet and nectar can attract black bears.

The following taken from Ministry of Natural Resources website –

Be Bear Wise

The Ministry of Natural Resources is committed to reducing preventable causes of human-bear conflict in Ontario.  The Bear Wise Program teaches people about black bears as well as things they can do to keep bears away from urban and semi urban areas.  We work with community leaders to establish local prevention programs. We offer many education and awareness products including a website.  We provide a bear information and reporting line.  We work in partnership with police to respond to human-bear incidents.

 What You Can Do to keep us and the bears safe:

People are reminded to take the necessary steps to help avoid attracting black bears into populated areas.

Garbage, outdoor grills and bird feed commonly attract black bears. Minimize your chances of attracting black bears by:

  • Putting garbage out only on the morning of collection.
  • Storing garbage in waste containers with tight-fitting lids.
  • Put away bird feeders and offer natural alternatives like flowers, nesting boxes and fresh water.
  • Clean outdoor grills after each use, including the grease trap underneath.