Wilderness Interactions

When visiting wilderness areas in Manitoba, whether for work or for pleasure, please remember that you are a visitor to the home of Manitoba’s wildlife.  Be Wildlife Smart to keep the “wild” in our wildlife, and to increase the likelihood of a positive wilderness experience for you and for others that will follow in your footsteps.

Wildlife Smart Tips for Wilderness Visitors
  • Let someone know where you will be, your travel route, and when you expect to return.
  • Don’t wear scented body products.
  • Keep dogs on a leash and under control at all times as they may provoke aggressive behaviour from wildlife.
  • Try to travel in a group; don’t allow individuals to run ahead or lag behind. It is recommended to have children travel within the group (i.e. not lead or last in the group).
  • Use bear-resistant waste containers to dispose of garbage whenever possible.
  • Each group member should carry bear deterrent spray, where it is easily accessible and not in a backpack. Be familiar with how to use the spray, as well as your canister’s effective range and length of spray time. 
  • Make noise frequently to alert wildlife to your presence. This can be done by handclapping, singing, talking, or the use of noisemakers such as safety whistles, or rattlers (pebbles in a canister). Most wildlife will avoid people if they are aware of their presence. Be especially noisy on windy days or near running water, both of which make it more difficult for wildlife to hear you approach.
  • Don’t obstruct your hearing by listening to music on headphones/earbuds so that you are able to hear any nearby wildlife, or any warnings given by your group members.
  • Be aware that odours produced from cooking and burning garbage may attract wildlife. If possible, avoid burning garbage. Any garbage that is not completely burned should be secured with other attractants and packed out.
  • Stay alert and watch for signs that wildlife may be present. Signs could include: tracks, droppings, claw marks on trees, ant hills or squirrel caches that have been disturbed, logs that have been rolled over, or patches of ground that have been disturbed.
  • Be alert to the foul odour of rotting meat or a gathering of scavenger birds that could indicate the presence of an animal carcass; avoid these areas as they will attract predators.

Overnight Stays

  • Do not sleep out in the open as this will leave you vulnerable.
  • Try to avoid setting up tents near water sources, or abundant food sources such as ripe berry patches or oak groves where acorns have ripened. All of these areas can be attractive to wildlife.
  • When camping in groups, arrange tents or field encampments in a straight line or semI-circle so that you can easily spot approaching wildlife and they will be able to exit the area more easily.
  • A trip-wire perimeter alarm or electric fencing can be used around sleeping quarters for additional security.
  • Keep your bear deterrent spray handy when sleeping in a tent.
  • Use bear-resistant storage containers for attractants. Attractants can include food products, toiletries such as toothpaste, and clothes that were worn while cooking. Do not bring these items into a tent.
  • Cook, clean and dispose of dirty dishwater far from a sleeping area; try to target a distance of 100 metres or more.
  • Sleeping in soft-sided accommodations is not recommended in polar bear country.  If this is unavoidable, the use of electric fencing is strongly recommended.
Wildlife Viewing and Photography

For the safety of both wildlife and people, please use the following Wildlife Smart guidelines for wildlife viewing and photography:

  • The best way to safely view or photograph wildlife is from inside a vehicle.
  • Do not approach an animal too closely. If you don’t have a telephoto lens, photograph the animals by including their natural surroundings.
  • In general, keep a minimum distance of:
    • 100 metres from large predators such as bears or wolves
    • 30 metres from all other large mammals
    • 200 metres from wolf, coyote or fox dens
  • If a wild animal displays defensive warning signals, move further away or leave the area.  Defensive signals may include:
    • Bears making a ‘woofing’ noise, growling or snapping their jaws
    • Bull elk or moose putting their head down and pawing at the ground
    • Cow elk flattening her ears, staring directly at you and raising her rump hair
  • If you cause an animal to move, you have approached too closely.  Don’t continue to press the animal.
  • Do not surround, crowd or follow an animal.
  • Don’t try to entice wildlife to approach you by offering food.
  • Never put people (especially children) at risk by posing them with wildlife.
  • Avoid trying to take a ‘selfie’ with wildlife as this will involve turning your back towards the animal(s).

Cyclists in wilderness areas should be aware that the speed and silence with which they move along trails puts them at increased risk of a negative encounter with wildlife. It is recommended to install, and frequently use, a bicycle bell or horn to alert wildlife to your presence.

Remember to keep bear deterrent spray easily accessible on your person; avoid attaching it to your bike.  This will ensure that if you become separated from your bike, the deterrent spray will remain easily accessible to you.

Hunting and Trapping

Hunters and trappers should be aware they could be at risk of a negative encounter with wildlife. This can be due to their attempts to minimize noise, their attempts to entice prey by simulating animal calls, and/or by the presence of an animal carcass after successful hunting/trapping. Hunters and trappers are also encouraged to carry bear deterrent spray regardless of whether or not they are also carrying a firearm. Studies have shown that bear deterrent spray is twice as effective as firearms in reducing the risk of serious human injury or fatality when deployed in self-defence against a bear attack.

Working in the Wilderness

Working in the wilderness and other remote areas presents some unique challenges.  One of these challenges is the increased potential for encounters between people and wildlife.  Below are more Wildlife Smart actions you can do to reduce risks for yourself, your co-workers, and for wildlife when working in wilderness areas of our province:

  • Try to work in partners or groups.
  • Have a means of communication and check in regularly.
  • In some remote field camp situations, you may require dedicated staff trained in using scaring techniques and responding to wildlife encounters.