Seeing a wild black bear is an exciting and memorable experience. There are
black Bears in Muskoka and they have been seen around Clear Lake, so it is
always important to be aware that you may encounter a bear at any time. Most
conflicts between people and black bears are the result of people approaching
and feeding bears, or allowing a bear to obtain garbage and pet feeds. Learning
the appropriate Black Bear Safety Techniques will
minimize the possibility of an encounter.
You are responsible for your safety and the safety of the bears. Please help
keep our black bears wild by not approaching or feeding them.
Black Bears At A Glance
The black bear is the smallest of the North American bears, and the only one
that is distinctly American. Our other bears, the brown-grizzly and the polar,
also inhabit Asia and Europe. The black did not originate on this continent. It
came over from Asia on the Bering Land Bridge about 500,000 years ago. Unlike
the pugnacious grizzly, which is rapidly disappearing, the furtive black bear
has learned to adapt to man and has survived in many parts of the country.
Though known to attack when provoked, the black generally gives humans a wide
A large male black bear weighs on average 300 to 400 pounds (the female
considerably less), stands 27 to 36 inches high at the shoulder, and is 4 to 5
1/2 feet in length. This bear does not have the prominent shoulder hump which
characterizes the brown-grizzly.
The black bear has a straight face when seen in profile. Its eyes are small and
the ears are well-rounded. It has 42 teeth: 12 incisors, 4 canines, 16
premolars and 10 molars. The canines are long and well pointed; the premolars
are rudimentary or even missing; and the molars have flat crowns.
The bear is plantigrade, walking on the soles of its feet. There are five toes
on each foot, each armed with a strong, curved, nonretractable claw. The black
bears front claws are about 1 1/4 inches in length, and it is the only North
American bear that often climbs trees as an adult. The black bear is also
unique in that it comes in a wide range of colors. A typical black bear has
long, lustrous jet-black hair over most of the body from its head down to its
tiny tail. On its muzzle and around its eyes, the hair is light-colored. Most
black bears have a splash of pure white on their chests. This splash may vary
from just a few hairs to an area about a foot across. Black bears also come in
almost every shade of brown and some are bright blond. One race of the black
bear is a smoky-blue and another race is pure white.
Healthy wild black bears rely on berries, insects, vegetation, fish and carrion
to survive. They generally mate during May and early June. They hibernate
primarily due to lack of food, usually between November and April, though this
varies. Healthy mothers produce 1 to 2 cubs every 2-3 years. To learn more go
Black Bear Safety Techniques
Please Don't Feed Bears
Bears should never obtain human food, pet/livestock feeds, or garbage. Bears
that receive these "food rewards" may become aggressive towards humans or cause
property damage. To protect people and their property, these bears may have to
Wild bears have a natural fear of humans and will attempt to avoid people and
developed areas fed bears do not!
Wild bears rely on natural foods such as berries and fish. Fed bears will
abandon vital food sources for human foods and garbage!
Wild bears quickly become conditioned to handouts and will teach their cubs to
do the same.
Wild bears fed along roads tend to stay near the road - increasing
Hiking in Bear Country
Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
Carry bear pepper spray.
Read all signs at the trailhead.
Hike in a group, and keep children close at hand.
Make your presence known (call out).
Hike during daylight hours & stay on the trail.
Watch for bear signs: scat, claw marks, diggings, logs or stumps torn apart,
Avoid taking pets, they may attract bears to you.
Bear Pepper Spray
Bear Pepper Spray is not a substitution for following appropriate safety
Bear pepper spray is not the same as personal defense spray, it must be E.P.A.
Bear pepper spray must contain 1.3%-2% capsaicin and related capsaicinoids.
Suggested spray distance is at least 25 feet in a cloud pattern lasting 6
seconds or more.
Camping In Bear Country
Always keep a clean camp.
Use a designated camping area.
Don't leave food out when not in use. Store it in bear-resistant storage unit,
hard shelled vehicle or car trunk.
Use bear-resistant trash receptacles.
Set up tents with space between them.
Keep pets on a leash.
Keep your sleeping area, tent and sleeping bag free of food and odors.
Don't sleep in clothes you cooked or food.
Keep a flashlight and bear pepper spray readily available.
Black Bear Encounters
Black bears should always be considered unpredictable and potentially dangerous.
A black bear will usually detect your presence and flee the area before you
notice unless the bear has been conditioned to people and their foods.
If a black bear is visible, but not close, alter your route so that you
will move away from its area.
If a black bear approaches, do not run. Remain calm, continue facing the bear
and slowly back away. If the bear continues to approach, try to group together
and pick up small children. Try to scare the bear away by shouting and acting
If a black bear attacks, it is suggested to fight back using everything
in your power fists, sticks, rocks, and E.P.A. registered bear pepper spray.
Minimize odors and the availability of food rewards throughout your yard and
Put out garbage on the day of pick-up, not the night before. Store in sturdy
building or place in a bear- resistant trash receptacle.
Do not leave pet food out. Hang bird feeders out of reach of bears.
Keep bar-b-ques clean and grease free. Store with livestock/pet feed inside a
Pick all ripe fruit from the tree and surrounding ground as soon as possible.
Vegetable gardens and compost piles may attract bears. Do not put meat, fish or
other pungent scraps in compost pile. Add lime to reduce odors and accelerate
An electric fence is an effective way to keep bears out of orchards, gardens,
compost piles, and beehives. Follow appropriate safety precautions.
Bear activity may intensify in spring when bears are hungry and emerging from
their dens, in the fall when bears are bulking up for hibernation, and during
drought periods. This is due to the scarcity of natural foods.