Bears and agricultural producers

Bear safety information for beekeepers, farmers and ranchers, including steps to take in a bear encounter.

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Living in bear country

Bear safety information for beekeepers, farmers and ranchers

What should I remember about livestock care?

  • Bears may target injured or sick animals. Monitor livestock closely for at least 10 days following castration, dehorning and branding. Conduct regular herd inspections.
  • Dispose of animal carcasses properly. Disposal should follow the Livestock Diseases and Public Health Acts and be done in a way to prevent the attraction of bears. The best option is to have carcasses promptly removed to a rendering plant.

    If available, use secure carcass storage facilities in your community. An alternative is to burn carcasses completely or bury them and cover them with lime under at least 1.2 metres (4 feet) of soil.

  • Set up an electric fence perimeter around your carcass pit. Pits for buried livestock carcasses should be surrounded by an electric fence. This will help prevent bears from attempting to dig up the carcasses.
  • Immediately report any livestock death that may be the result of a bear attack. Call 310-0000 to find the Fish and Wildlife office nearest you.

How can I protect my beehives?

  • Use electric fencing to protect your bee colonies. Install the fencing in spring and be sure to maintain the fencing, chargers and batteries.

What should I remember about crops and grain storage?

  • Be cautious when working or walking around cereal crops, such as wheat, oats and barley, especially at dusk and dawn. Bears forage for grain and seeds.
  • Maintain your granaries. Ensure they are constructed well and the doors are sturdy and in good condition.
  • Invest in retrofit grain hopper systems for added security.
  • Clean all spilled and waste grain as soon as possible. If spillage is unavoidable, locate storage facilities away from areas of human use and known bear habitat.
  • Consider seasonal electric fencing. Install electric fencing or an alarm system in areas with valuable products or those at high risk of bear-human encounters.

How can I prevent bears from coming near the house?

  • Remove pet food and feeders at night. Pet food left outside can attract bears. If you must feed your pets outside, bring the dishes inside at night when bears are most active.
  • Consider electric fencing if your garden or stored produce attracts bears.
  • Consider removing fruit trees and berry-producing bushes from your property. Bears are attracted to the fruit and berries. If you must keep the trees, pick the ripening fruit as early as possible and store them in bear-resistant, airtight containers.
  • Remove bird feeders from your yard between April and October. Be sure to clean up any spilled bird feed off the ground.
  • Keep your garbage in bear-resistant, airtight containers.
  • Keep your compost indoors. Outdoor compost attracts bears. Look into using an indoor composter.
  • Clean your barbecues. Scrub your barbecue clean after each use and store it in a bear-resistant building, such as the garage or shed.
  • Call Fish and Wildlife for additional advice. If bears return to your property even after you've removed the things that can attract them, call your nearest Fish and Wildlife office at 310-0000.

What should I teach my children about being safe around bears?

  • Do not approach a bear.
  • Never run away from a bear. Back away slowly and find a safe place, such as a building or vehicle.
  • Stay with your group and move away from the bear together.
  • Bears are more active at dusk, night and dawn. Children should play close to the house during those times.
  • Stay away from areas that may attract bears, such as granaries, carcass pits and berry patches.

If you encounter a bear

All bears are individuals and so all bear encounters will be unique. Serious attacks are rare, but you must always be cautious and alert when outdoors.

What should I do if I see a bear but the bear doesn't see me?

  • Don't attract attention. Leave the way you came without calling attention to yourself. Retreat slowly while keeping your eye on the bear.
  • If you must move forward, give the bear a wide berth. If you have no choice but to move forward, give the bear as much space as you can.
  • Stay quiet and alert. Even if you think you are a safe distance away from the bear, remain quiet, alert and calm. Continue watching for the bear until you reach your destination.

What should I do if I see the bear and the bear sees me?

  • Do not run. Stay calm and assess the situation. Stay with your group and keep children close.
  • Look around. If you see cubs or an animal carcass, the bear will want to protect them. If you see either, back away from them.
  • Prepare to use your bear spray.
  • Back away. Leave the area the way you came. Keep your eye on the bear without staring at it aggressively.
  • Watch for a place to hide. As you back away, seek out a place of safety, such as a car or building. Remember that both black bears and grizzly bears can climb trees, so if you choose to climb a tree, go as high as you can.
  • Speak to the bear. Let the bear know you are human and not a prey animal.

What is a defensive encounter?

A defensive encounter occurs when the bear is feeling stressed or threatened. It may have been surprised by your sudden appearance or feels you are a threat to itself, its cubs or its food source. In such an encounter, the bear may show some of the following behaviours:

  • Vocalizing, such as blowing, huffing, "woofing", growling or snapping its jaws
  • Flicking the ears back
  • Swatting the ground
  • Swaying the head
  • Making a bluff charge

What should I do in a defensive encounter?

  • Do not run. Stay calm, make no sudden movements and do not act in a threatening manner.
  • Speak to the bear. Speaking calmly to the bear reminds it that you are not a prey animal and helps to keep you calm.
  • Keep the group together. Gather children in close, and do not let anyone leave the group.
  • Prepare to use your bear spray.
  • Back away slowly without turning your back to the bear.
  • If the bear charges, do not run. Stand your ground. A bear may come very close to you when making a bluff charge, and it may make more than one bluff charge. Do not run.
  • When the bear approaches, use your bear spray:
    • At 9 to 15 m (30 to 50 ft) fire a warning blast for ½ to 1 second, aiming the bear spray slightly downward.
    • At 6 to 9 m (20 to 30 ft) fire 1 to 2-second blasts in continuous succession, aiming slightly downward in front of the bear's head until the bear leaves.
    • At 0 to 6 m (0 to 20 ft) fire 1 to 2-second blasts in continuous succession, aiming at the head, or into the nose and mouth of the bear until the bear leaves.
    • Try to keep some bear spray in reserve. Always re-evaluate your situation.
  • After spraying the bear, back away. Keep the bear in sight as you leave the area, and stay alert. Bears may be attracted to the bear spray residue.
  • If the bear does make contact, play dead. Cover the back of your neck with your hands. Lie on your stomach with your legs anchored in the ground. If the bear rolls you over, roll back on to your stomach. Don't move until you're sure the bear has left the area.
  • Once the bear has stopped, remain quiet. Yelling at the bear may provoke it into a further attack.
  • Defensive attacks are short. If the bear has started to bite or if the attack is prolonged, it may have turned predatory (see below).

The bear sees me, is not showing signs of stress and is closing the distance. Why?

A bear that does not leave the area once it has detected you may be curious, looking for a handout, attempting to assert its dominance or be assessing you as a potential food source. In these cases, the bear is not showing signs of stress and is:

  • Staring intently
  • Circling around you to detect your scent
  • Remaining quiet
  • Approaching in a slow, hesitant manner
  • Keeping its head and its ears up

What should I do in these kinds of encounters?

  • Do not run. Prepare to fight with all means at your disposal. Do not play dead in a predatory encounter.
  • Make yourself look big and shout at the bear. Yell aggressively at the bear and stand on a rock or a tree stump to remind the bear that you are not easy prey.
  • Use your bear spray. Continue to use your bear spray, even when in close contact with the bear.
  • Pick up rocks or sticks to use as weapons. Aim at the bear's eyes, face and nose.
  • If the bear makes contact, fight back as forcefully as you can.

Related Information

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