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Bear Season Returns to the NWT

Bear Season is coming back in the NWT, and there are plenty of ways to keep both yourself, and the bears, safe from harm.

As bears begin to come out of hibernation, the Department of Environment and Climate Change has given out a handful of reminders that people can follow to help reduce the chances of having an unexpected encounter.

Their first piece of advice is to not invite bears into any space intended for humans. Avoiding encounters starts with not inviting bears to homes, cabins, or communities. Attractants are usually the cause. Negative encounters are more likely when bears are in populated areas, and if bears get habituated to human food and garbage, they are more likely to stay close to people and less likely to survive in the wild.

Bears, as well as other wildlife, should never be fed. Make sure to keep food, as well as pet food, gas, and other things the could attract animals, inside and out of reach. Bear-proof your garbage, either by keeping it inside or in a shed until collection day, or in a bear-proof container. For those who clean fish and deal with remains, make sure to do so away from places used by people to cut down on smells.

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If you have plans to go out into the wilds, there are precautions that can be taken in the event you run into a bear.

– Take deterrents like bear spray or bear bangers along, and know how to use them

– Do not leave garbage or food waste behind and bear proof your camp site

– Make noise, travel in groups, and carry bear spray

– Keep your dog on a leash at all times

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– Be on the lookout for fresh bear signs and leave the area if you find any

If you see a bear:

– Keep your distance

– Back away quietly

– Try to stay downwind to avoid the bear from smelling you

– Make loud noises to scare them away

– Report sightings to your region’s wildlife emergency line

In the event that a bear does attack, make loud noises, and do not turn your back to the bear. When a bear charges, it is usually a bluff, and they will turn to the side at the last moment. Make sure to use bear spray, though keep in mind that it has a very short range. Firearms can be used if you have one, but only try to use it if an attack from a bear seems unavoidable. If you play dead during a bear attack, lie on your side, curl into a ball with your legs tight to your chest and hands clasped behind your neck. When you are safe, report it to your region’s wildlife emergency line right away.

The NWT is bear country. It is home to black, grizzly, and polar bears. Bears normally avoid contact with people, but if they or their cubs are spooked, approached, or habituated to human food or garbage, they can become a problem.

Encounters are most common in spring as bears emerge, and late summer through fall when they are working to fatten up for winter.

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