Who to contact

Not every bear sighting is an emergency situation. Visit the Be Bear Wise website for more information.

Emergency situations

Call 911 or your local police if a bear poses an immediate threat to personal safety and exhibits threatening or aggressive behaviour, such as:

  • enters a school yard when school is in session
  • stalks people and lingers at the site
  • enters or tries to enter a residence
  • wanders into a public gathering
  • kills livestock/pets and lingers at the site

Police will respond first to an emergency situation, but may request assistance from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry during daylight hours.

Non-emergency encounters

Call the toll-free Bear Wise reporting line at 1-866-514-2327 (TTY 705-945-7641 ) if a bear:

  • roams around or checks garbage cans
  • breaks into a shed where garbage or food is stored
  • is in a tree
  • pulls down a bird feeder or knocks over a barbecue
  • moves through a backyard or field but does not linger

This line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from April 1 to November 30.

What to do if you encounter a black bear while enjoying the outdoors

Bears usually avoid humans. But if you do encounter one, it’s important to remember that they are powerful and potentially dangerous animals. If you are a hiker, cyclist, jogger, berry picker, or anyone who plans to spend some time in “bear country”, there are some things you should do if you encounter a bear. If you encounter a bear:

  • If the bear is not paying any attention to you, slowly and quietly back away while watching the bear to make sure it isn’t following you
  • Do not approach the bear to get a better look
  • If the bear obviously knows you are there, raise your arms to let the bear know you are a human. Make yourself look as big as possible. Speak in a firm but non-threatening voice while looking at the bear and backing away
  • Watch the bear to gauge its reaction to you. Generally, the noisier the bear is, the less dangerous it is, providing you don’t approach the bear. If a bear huffs, pops its jaw or stomps its paws on the ground, it wants you to back away and give it space
  • If a bear closely approaches you, drop any food you are carrying and continue backing up
  • If the bear continues to try to approach, stand your ground and be aggressive – use your whistle or air horn, yell, stand tall, wave your arms and throw objects
  • If a bear keeps advancing and is getting close, continue to stand your ground. Use your bear pepper spray and anything else to threaten or distract the bear – bears will often first test to see if it is safe to approach you
  • Do not run or climb a tree. Bears can run faster and climb better than you
  • If the bear makes contact, fight back with everything you have

Ontario is Bear Country

By following a few Bear Wise habits, people can discourage bears from visiting their homes, farms, businesses, cottages and property. However, it takes everybody working together to keep bears away from communities and neighbourhoods. Ontario is bear country. Chances are you live near bears. If you are not convinced that people can eliminate bear activity, think about this. In 2010 the leading causes of bear problems were the result of:

  • Residential garbage
  • Food smells (including dirty barbecues)
  • Fruit trees

Help keep people safe and bears wild. Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Learn about bears and what can attract them to your property.
  • Know what you should do if you see or encounter a bear on your property.
  • Take steps to remove or control items known to attract bears.
  • Encourage your neighbours and your community to practice Bear Wise habits.