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Living with Wildlife in Manitoba

Removing the Attractant Removes the Bear

Be "Bear Smart" — Keep Safe in Bear Country

To achieve the most effective and long-lasting solution in avoiding unwanted nuisance black bear behaviour, we must practice prevention rather than apply "after-the-fact" responses to a bear that has already gained access to foods or adapted to its availability. Once a black bear has become used to eating foods associated with humans, it usually develops into a "problem" animal and must be either relocated or destroyed. 

If you are having problems with bears, by applying the following principles of "Good Housekeeping," you may be able to discourage bears from becoming human-habituated and food-conditioned. Remember that bears have an insatiable appetite, and their behaviour is driven by their search for food. So please, do your part in deterring black bears from becoming a nuisance, a danger, or being needlessly destroyed.

General Attractants

Barbecues: If not maintained properly, barbecues can attract bears. Replace lava rocks with ceramic bricks for ease of cleaning. Remove the grease can from gas and charcoal grills after every use. Turn the grill on "High" for several minutes to burn off food residue and grease. Clean barbecue pits and grills thoroughly with an ammonia-based cleaner to mask the smells before leaving them outside. When not in use, wrap barbecues in plastic and store them inside a secured garage or shed.

Birdfeed: Remove all bird feeders from April through to November. Birds have ample natural foods in the summer and do not need supplemental feed. If given a choice, a bear will choose this high quality and dependable year-round food supply over natural foods. In bear country, bird feeding accounts for 36 per cent of all nuisance problems. Do not place any food to attract wildlife.

Burning: Do not burn garbage - the fire remains may attract bears.

Composting: Do not compost unless you can be certain the location is away from treed cover and it will not act as an attractant. If composting plant matter, make sure you practice "Hot Composting." Do not compost meat, fish, fruit, vegetable, grease, oil, or dairy products outdoors. If you insist on doing it, you should consider indoor worm composting

Fruit Trees: Fruit-bearing trees (such as apples, plums, and in particular, oaks and cherries) are a natural attractant especially in the early fall. Bears will travel great distances to feed on this highly desired food source. If you cannot tolerate bears feeding on your property, then you should consider removing all fruit-bearing trees and replacing them with native, non-fruit-bearing trees. Pick all ripened fruit off trees as well as off the ground each morning and evening.

Gardens: Avoid planting vegetable gardens. If you still wish to have a garden, beehive or orchard, erect properly installed electric fencing (information is available on our web-site). Remove vegetables as they mature and do not use blood meal or fish-based products to fertilize your lawn or garden. Keep your lawn mowed and weeded. Grass and dandelions in flower are attractive to bears.

Odours: With the exception of ammonia, Lysol, camphor and other such strong smells, everything smells like potential bear food.

Pet Food: Do not feed family pets outside. An empty dish left outside will have the leftover scent of food including morsels of uneaten food. Store animal feed indoors in airtight containers.

Campsite Maintenance
  1. Keep your campsite clean and put everything away.
  2. Do not cook, eat or store food in your tent. Do not burn food scraps or fat in an open fire.
  3. If you have a vehicle, keep all food stored in the vehicle.
  4. Backwoods users should store food and unwashed utensils in airtight storage containers to minimize odours.
  5. Suspend food and clothing you cooked in out of the reach of a bear - at least four meters (15 ft.) off the ground in between two trees and well away from your campsite.
  6. Do not dispose of dishwater around or near your campsite.
  7. Do not use cosmetics that emit strong fragrances and do not keep synthetic-based products like perfumes, deodorants and toothpaste in your tent.
Community Action
  1. Form community action committees to ensure that everyone does their part to avoid teaching bears bad habits. Construct bear-proof garbage drop-off storage facilities, and arrange to have the garbage picked up regularly. Note: if it can be dismantled with a crowbar, it is not bear-proof.
  2. If you have curbside pick-up, never leave garbage out overnight. Place it outside one or two hours before it is picked-up.
  3. Empty garbage dumpsters at camping and cottage areas after dinner to decrease the chance of attracting bears during their most active period.
Household Waste Management
  1. Do not store food or garbage in old refrigerators or freezers. Instead, purchase airtight or bear-proof refuse containers.
  2. Store garbage cans in a secure place such as a garage or a bear-proof shed, rather than storing them by the house. Use plastic bags inside garbage cans to help hide odours. Grease, fat, bacon and other meats should be disposed of in sealed containers.
  3. Clean garbage cans and other refuse containers frequently with diluted ammonia, bleach or Lysol mixtures. Place camphor disks (available from some drug stores) in garbage cans to mask food odours. Other items may work as well, e.g. mothballs, air fresheners, Lysol and ammonia-soaked rags.
  4. Rinse all containers before disposing and recycling.
  5. Consider purchasing bear resistant garbage containers. Suppliers can be found on the internet by searching for "bear resistant container" or in your yellow pages.
  6. Turn-off kitchen exhaust fans that vent to the outside when not in use. Make sure the vent screen is cleaned regularly.
  7. Clean the exit area of your drain if you do not have a holding tank to contain flushed food particles in dishwater.
  8. Do not leave dirty diapers or diaper pails outside.
  9. Make it difficult for bears to get inside your dwelling. For walls, use 3/4" or 7/8" plywood as a minimum or tongue-and-groove 2" x 8" lumber. Bolt-strong shutters of at least 2" lumber over windows and doors. Make sure there is a tight seal between the shutters, doors and windows, so there is no room for a bear to get a claw under the shutter. As an alternative to shutters, bolt on chain-link fencing or metal grates.

Never hand-feed bears. One minute a bear may be feeding calmly from your hand distracted by the allure of the food being offered; and then suddenly, it becomes aggressive once the distraction of food has run out. How one bear behaves at one moment in time is not a guarantee of how it will behave at another point in time. The same can be said among individual animals.

Never attempt to handle a "problem" bear by yourself. Call your local Sustainable Development office for advice or assistance. The phone numbers can be obtained either from the back of Manitoba’s "Cottager’s Handbook" or the Manitoba Hunting or Fishing Guides. If it is an emergency and a resource officer cannot be reached, then call the local RCMP office. If, however, you are forced to kill a bear in self defence or in defence of property, please be aware that under The Wildlife Act, the situation must be reported to a Natural Resources officer within 10 days. For additional information, please contact the nearest Sustainable Development office, or call 1-800-214-6497 (945-6784 in Winnipeg).