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Keep an eye open for hungry bears
One black bear already sighted near Fort Simpson

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, April 19, 2012

With a confirmed bear sighting near Fort Simpson, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is reminding Deh Cho residents to be cautious and take precautions.

A very large male black bear was spotted on April 10 on the Wrigley highway approximately one kilometre from K&K Expediting Ltd. Staff with the department went to the area and confirmed the sighting based on fresh tracks, said Doug Villeneuve, the manager of wildlife and the environment for the department in the Deh Cho.

This is the time of year that black bears start to come out of their dens, Villeneuve said. Depending on how their foraging went in the fall, bears can be more dangerous around this time.

If the bears didn't put on enough winter fat they can come out in poor shape and hungry and are therefore more aggressive. People should be especially wary of bears that appear to be in poor condition, he said.

Villeneuve advises people who are out walking or jogging to be particularly aware of their surroundings.

"It's best to travel in groups and keep their pets on leashes," he said.

If people are using ear buds to listen to music it's also a good idea to leave one off so they can remain aware of their surroundings, said Villeneuve. Tracks and droppings are two things people should watch for. People could come close to a bear, however, without realizing it.

"They can be very quiet," he said.

If threatened, bears sometimes hiss and make popping sounds with their jaws. In the case of a bear encounter, Villeneuve said people should back away slowly while keeping an eye on the bear and then leave the area. The incident should be reported to the Wildlife Line that will be open as of May 1.

The department has a moveable wildlife advisory sign that will be deployed in areas where there have been confirmed sightings. If you see the sign, you should use caution, said Villeneuve. If members of the department are actively deterring a bear from an area residents should keep away.

"A lot of time the public are curious," he said.

By driving into an area where a bear is being deterred, a resident could scare it in the wrong direction or put themselves in danger, said Villeneuve.

Residents should also take measures to avoid attracting bears to their houses or cabins.

These measures include putting garbage out the day of pickup, storing meat inside the house and disposing of waste from cleaning animals such as geese far from campsite areas.

For the most part, Villeneuve said even long-term Deh Cho residents remain vigilant against black bears.

"They could be quite dangerous so there's always concern about that," he said.

Last year 10 nuisance bears were destroyed in Fort Simpson along with one in Nahanni Butte and two in the Wrigley area. The number was a little higher than the average, which is approximately six per year, said Villeneuve. The department also received more reports than usual either in person or via the Wildlife Line.

For more information on black bears, the department has Safety in Grizzly Bear and Black Bear Country booklets available at its Fort Simpson office as well as DVDs for loan.

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