Two high profile incidents have recently garnered a lot of attention in Bruce County - the ransacking of a Stokes Bay bakery by a bear and a $100 bounty a Sauble Beach beekeeper placed on the bears vandalizing his hives. In defense of the bears, 1) who could resist the aroma of blueberry baked goods wafting through the forest and 2) are images of bears and honey not rather synonymous?
In all seriousness, bear sightings are on the rise from Meaford up to the tip of the Peninsula. Bears are permanent members of the region's wildlife and we humans have to take certain precautions and respect their presence.
When travelling in bear country, hikers are reminded of the following:
Most black bears will leave before you are even aware of them.
Make noise on the Trail - sing or talk loudly or carry a noisemaker.
Use extra caution when travelling near water or into strong winds as the bear may not hear you approach.
Use caution near natural bear foods such as berries, nut crops and fish.
Stay away from any dead animals you find along the Trail. Bears defend carcasses.
Watch for bear signs such as tracks, scat (bear droppings), fresh diggings and large overturned rocks.
If you happen to encounter a bear on the Trail, stop and face it. The worse thing you can do - and probably your first instinct - is to turn and run. If luck is with you, you'll be hiking in a group. Ensure the bear has an escape route and then begin to yell and wave your arms. You want to appear like you are a threat to the bear. Slowly back away from the animal. If bold, the bear may charge. Greater than 90% of all charges are bluffs but you want to be prepared. Your last possible course of action is to physically attack the bear with anything you have in your presence.
Be alert when on the Trail. Chances are very slim that you will ever come face to face with a bear and your best defense is to stay calm and rational. I'll end with the good news. For every fatal bear attack in North America, there are 17 deaths from spiders, 25 from snakes, 67 from dogs, 180 from bees/wasps and 374 deaths from lightning. My last piece of advice is to take shelter during the storm!
... by Joy Black, former Bruce Trail News editor