Bears and Public Safety

The issue of public safety in reference to potential bear attacks has been blown way out of proportion by some of the media and supported by a small, very small vocal segment of residents and special interest groups across the Province who lobby for more animals to shoot.

It is true that there have been unprovoked attacks by a very few rogue predatory bears but these attacks are extremely rare so let’s put it into proper perspective.

There have been  4 recorded fatal Black Bear attacks resulting in 7 fatalities by 4 male bears during  the last 100 years in Ontario. (In just 30 years from 1982 to 2012 there have been 497 fatal attacks by dogs across Canada and the United States)

Unprovoked or predatory attacks that resulted in fatalities and serious injuries have almost exclusively occurred in more remote areas of Ontario, far outside of communities.

Many bear encounters reported as attacks were ‘bluff charges’ resulting in no physical contacts. Bears behave this way when people are too close. In bear language the bear is asking people to give it more space. Female bears with small cubs behave this way but do not actually attack.

There has never been a black bear attack resulting in a fatality within any community such as a town, city or village anywhere in Canada.

Although a bear attack is very rare,  bear attacks often involve dogs off leash in a rural setting.  Dr. Stephen Herrero, Professor Emeritus University of Calgary, a highly respected bear researcher with over 40 years of experience & a particular focus on Bear Attacks Their Causes & Avoidance (title of his book on the subject), along with his colleagues, just concluded a 3 year study of 92 Black Bear attacks across North America. The study determined that over half of these studied bear attacks involved a dog off leash.

Dogs on a leash outdoors or in a yard are in almost all cases a deterrent, as a bear has the opportunity to avoid the dog.   Whereas, an unleashed dog in the open will most often create an avoidable encounter which can result in injury to the dog & its owner.

Conclusion: Bears that are familiar with human activity and do not expect harm or pain from people do not attack.

Mike McIntosh (reference material compiled by Jim Johnston of Elliott Lake Ontario)

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