Seeing wild animals up close can be an exciting experience, however, having a 200-kilogram black bear at your kitchen door wanting a share of the Sunday roast can be a bit too close for comfort.
Eastern Nova Scotia has a healthy population of black bears and each spring they make their presence known.
Black bears are omnivores, meaning they will eat a wide variety of food including berries, apples, bird seed, green bin material, garbage and other animals. When bears come near homes, they are usually looking for food and if they are rewarded by finding an easy meal, they quickly learn to seek out similar situations.
If a bear frequents your property, it is there for a reason. In nearly all problem bear situations, human food and food waste is involved. When a bear smells food odours coming from a compost bin, garbage container, or even a barbeque, it regards this as a convenient food source and will repeatedly return to the site until the food has been eaten or cleaned up and removed.
To avoid attracting bears: store green bins and garbage containers in a secure shed until the morning of pick up; turn garden compost piles often and add lime to reduce odour; freeze particularly smelly food waste, such as lobster shells and fish, until collection day and then put it out in your green bin; avoid using bird feeders (from April-October); burn off barbecue grills at high temperatures after every use and clean out the grease trays often; keep pet food bowls indoors and do not feed your pets outside; pick fruit from trees as soon as it ripens and remove from property; and keep your windows closed when cooking to keep kitchen smells from wafting outside.
If you spot a black bear on your property, or see signs that a bear is around, eliminate the items that may attract them. Talk to your neighbours about working together to eliminate bear attractants. We all must be diligent to reduce our impact on the wildlife that live in our region.
If you encounter a bear on your property: stay at a distance and move away from the animal; make noise because if a bear knows that you are there, it will usually move away on its own; do not block any escape routes for the bear, and give it a clear path to exit; and remember to respect bears and treat them as if they may become aggressive. The bear is looking for food and not directly targeting you or your family, however, you should always be cautious. There are no records of bear attacks on humans in Nova Scotia, but the potential exists.
If you are unable to solve your bear problem, or if you encounter a bear that is aggressive, injured, or shows no fear of people and refuses to leave an area, call your local Department of Natural Resources office or, after hours, call 1-800-565-2224. A department staff member will contact you to discuss options.
Occasionally a nuisance bear may have to be live trapped and removed, but there are few truly remote places where a bear can be relocated without it returning to the same area where it was captured or becoming a nuisance to someone else. Unfortunately, this means many of our nuisance bears must be euthanized. So, please, do your part and take measures to avoid creating a nuisance bear that is dependent on food associated with humans. Keep black bears wild.
To find out more visit: https://novascotia.ca/natr/wildlife/living-with-wildlife/bear/.
Regional Wildlife Biologist
Department of Natural Resources