Concern regarding nuisance black bears has been a long standing issue in Northern Ontario. Northerners have successfully coexisted with black bears for many years; at times though, bears pose a serious threat to people, and their livelihoods.

Through the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the provincial government has the responsibility to manage wildlife in Ontario. In recent years, successive governments have chosen to pull back the resources used to manage nuisance bears. Currently, the provincial Bear Wise program offers advice on how to deal with a bear. If a bear appears to be behaving in a life-threatening way, callers are told to contact 911 directly for police response. However, as no direct action is taken on the receipt of a complaint or multiple complaints, encounters tend to be under reported to Bear Wise.

As a result, this leaves a serious gap in response to nuisance bear encounters. People who live in towns in Ontario have a reasonable expectation that they should be protected from hazards that are the responsibility of the Government to manage safely.

Bears have been regularly observed walking down streets in the middle of the day, posing an immediate hazard to public safety. It is not reasonable that people living in built-up areas should be experiencing this degree of risk on a regular basis. The constant exposure of residents to roaming bears should not be happening in our province; unfortunately, this has become the norm in many Northern communities.

For these reasons, we are launching this reporting service to build our own database of documented bear encounters, in an effort to convince the Government of Ontario that more has to be done to control nuisance black bears.

When you see a bear in a residential area, call Bear Wise so that the Ontario Government has a record of your incident. Please make it a priority to send us a message through the Northern Bear Report website (northernbearreport.com) so that we have a record of your experience as well. A picture is worth a thousand words – we appreciate all photos to help demonstrate the extent of bear encounters in the North.

If the bear is threatening, do not hesitate to call 911.

Thank you for your assistance,

John Vanthof

MPP Timiskaming-Cochrane