Black bear do’s and don’ts for Nova Scotians

Published on June 13, 2014
Bear encounters
Morgue File Photo

SPRINGHILL – A late night stroll through town by a black bear this week in Springhill is a reminder for everyone wildlife is abundant and all around us.

The Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources says black bears are abundant in the province and people must exercise caution when an encounter with a ear in a rural area occurs.

“Real black bears aren’t the cuddly critters portrayed in cartoons,” the department says. “They are large powerful animals that should be treated with caution and respect.”

Bears are normally shy of hums contact but will venture into communities when food is scarce. Those expeditions usually result in property damage and are almost always a result of opportunity – discarded food waste, gardens and compost bins. When enticed by the smell of food, bears will overturn garbage cans, green carts and bird feeders. They will also break into garages and cars and, if successful finding food, will likely return.

“Relocation of these "spoiled" bears is seldom successful as there are few areas in Nova Scotia where they can be released and not become someone else's problem.”

To prevent encounters with bears, the department advises:

• Store garbage indoors or in metal bear-proof containers. On collection day, put garbage out as close to pick up time as possible. If you’re going to miss collection day, take garbage to the disposal site before you leave.

• Never put meat, fish, bones or seafood shells in the compost. Turn compost often to prevent odors and hasten decomposition. Apply lime to reduce odor.

• Keep your green cart in a shady area away from forest cover. Put meat or fish scraps in a plastic container or bag and store in the freezer until collection day. Rinse your cart periodically.

• Keep barbecue grills clean and free of grease. The smell of animal fat and barbecue sauce may attract a hungry bear. Store the barbecue indoors if possible.

• If pets are fed outside, remove spillage and leftovers promptly.

• Remove bird feeders once their natural food sources are available. If you continue bird feeding, and if a bear has been seen in your neighbourhood, put feeders indoors at night and clean up spillage.

• Pick fruit and berries growing near your home that may attract bears. Even if you don’t want the fruit, dispose of it before attracts a bear’s attention.


The department also has some tips for if and when you encounter a bear – either in a rural setting, at the cottage or while hiking and camping:

• Stay calm.

• Speak in a firm authoritative voice and slowly back away. Do not look the bear in the eyes.

• Leave escape routes open for the bear.

• If the bear begins to follow you, drop something - not food - to distract the bear as you move away.

• Do not make threatening gestures or sudden moves unless you are being attacked.

• Never run or climb a tree. Bears excel at both activities.

• If a bear attacks you, fight back with anything and everything you can, and make a lot of noise. Do not ‘play dead.’ Use pepper spray if you have it.


Source: Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources

To learn more about nuisance black bears, download the Department of Natural Resources Fact Sheet.