Although there haven’t been any official sightings of black bears in Woolwich, there is evidence they have been roaming the township.
It may be winter, and most bears are ready for a season-long hibernation, but while traversing the trails in the area, Elmira resident Paul Dignan found what appeared to be aggressive bear markings on a tree on the Sandy Hills Pinery Trail just north of Elmira.
Jamie Hagman, a resource management tech. specialist with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, says there have been no official reports of sightings of black bears, or even their markings.
“Bears will mark their territory by scratching trees,” she wrote in an email to The Observer. “We were not aware of any markings in the area. This is the first instance we have heard of.”
While there hasn’t been a sighting of a bear yet, Hagman has some tips for those venturing out on the winter trails in Woolwich.
“Bears usually avoid humans. Generally, you won’t see a bear even if one is close by. Remember, in the natural environment you are a visitor in the bear’s home range, so do all you can to avoid encounters. Make noise as you move through wooded areas, especially in areas where background noise is high, such as near streams and waterfalls. Singing, whistling or talking will alert bears to your presence, giving them a chance to avoid you,” she shared. “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. If the bear 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.”
She also says to back up slowly and drop any food you are carrying should a bear approach. Carry a whistle or an air horn while out on the trails. Stand your ground, stay calm, speak loudly, stand tall, wave your arms and throw objects if the bear continues towards you. Most importantly, don’t run or try and climb a tree. The best way to fend off a bear is to fight back.
One of the key points Hagman shared was how to keep bears in the wild, rather than in areas where humans are settled. She says to keep garbage inside until the morning of a pick-up, keep bird feeders filled, but only in the winter months, thoroughly clean outdoor grills and barbecues and for outdoor composters, keep meat, fish and fruits out of the container.
If you see a bear, or any evidence of a bear nearby, call the Guelph Ministry of Natural Resources and forestry office at 1-866-514-2327.