People are being reminded to be bear aware and stay safe around wildlife as springtime hits.
The Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment says that many urban centres within the province are built alongside such as rivers, forests and valleys. They say this creates the likelihood of bears or other animals, such as cougars, looking for territory and food. While seeing these animals can be exciting for some, residents are reminded they can be dangerous and unpredictable.
Conservation Officer Kevin Harrison says that if one finds themselves in the presence of a bear, they should stay calm and slowly exit the bear’s vicinity.
“The main thing is stay calm, and don’t run. If you can, make a wide detour, calmly back away, speak in low tones and don’t look directly at the bear. Obviously, never feed it or approach it. If you get a chance, move towards a rock or a tree to put something between you [and the bear.]”
According to Alberta BearSmart, oftentimes if a bear appears to be threatening a human, it’s because it perceives them as a threat to themselves, it’s cubs or food source. It may pop its jaws or swat the ground with its front paw while blowing and snorting, or it may lunge or “bluff charge toward you in an attempt to get you to leave.
In many of these situations, the bear will threaten but not attack, but Harrison says in the rare possibility that a bear does attack, it’s attacking for a reason, and people should never “play dead” to stop the bear, as this is a common misconception.
“As a last resort kind of thing, drop an article of clothing. A hat, a backpack, a jacket, just to distract the bear. If it does attack, we recommend that you do defend yourself, that you do not play dead, and fight back with everything you’ve got. ”
When walking or hiking in areas where bears may be, keep your pet on a leash and carry bear spray, after learning how to use it. It’s also recommended that people take proactive steps to keep bears and other animals away, such as keeping garbage or pet food indoors or “animal-proof” containers.
People can report bears or other dangerous animals to their local Ministry of Environment office or by calling Saskatchewan’s 24-hour Turn in Poachers and Polluters line.