A black bear was spotted wandering through the community of Rivers over the weekend. (File)

After receiving numerous reports of a bear wandering around the town of Rivers over the weekend, the Rivers Police Service shared information on what to do upon encountering a bear.

Police in Rivers, located 41 kilometres northwest of Brandon, shared a tip line for reporting bear sightings on its Facebook page. Residents are urged to call 1-800-782-0076 if they’ve seen a bear.

Sgt. Dan Gaignard told the Sun that Manitoba Conservation was contacted about the bear over the weekend when it was wandering through town streets. Since then, he said he believes the bear has retreated to the river in search of food.

“There’s a bunch of saskatoon [bushes] down there that are all ripe and ready to be eaten, so we’re pretty sure that’s what’s attracting them to the area,” Gaignard said.

Jocelyn Beever, a cattle producer who owns a farm just outside Rivers, told the Sun that more and more bears and other wildlife are being seen in and around town in the past few years. She thinks this is because they are moving out of Riding Mountain National Park, located 93 kilometres northeast of Rivers.

“Whether because there’s an overabundance [of animals] and they’ve moved out, or whether they’ve always been around the park but their habitat is decreasing … they’re following the waterways, where there’s trees and food,” Beever said.

Beever has spotted bears on her property before over the last two or three years, usually near the river that runs through her land. Having grown up with an outdoorsman for a father and going on fishing trips to northern Manitoba, she’s not too perturbed by the idea of a bear wandering through her property, she said. However, she is concerned that with the exception of avid outdoorspeople who enjoy hiking and camping, many people in town aren’t sure what to do if they spot a bear — or, worse yet, encounter one face to face.

“We need to educate people in our community about how to dispose of your garbage, and what to do if you come across a bear,” Beever said. “Maybe we need to get some [bear-proof] garbage disposal.”

Although Manitoba Conservation is the organization that deals with wildlife, Gaignard said that the police still respond to calls while also informing Manitoba Conservation about the whereabouts of any wild animals.

“We’d be having that conversation to try and get them to come deal with the bear,” he said.

And while a bear strolling through town might not be an everyday sight in Rivers, Gaignard said the community is taking it in stride. The plentiful berries down by the river will should be enough to satiate the bear and keep it from wandering back into town looking for food, he said.

“As long as he stays and gorges himself on some berries, we’ll probably be OK.”

Black bears are found throughout Manitoba, and are most likely to be encountered in wooded areas of the province, the Manitoba government’s “Coexisting with Black Bears” handbook says.

Bears are always in search of food, motivated by sights, sounds, memories and particularly odours. When bears find an easy source of food at a residence or campsite, they begin to associate this food source with people and dwellings. When bears discover that humans can be intimidated, they can get bold in acquiring this food. Bears that learn food is available from residences or campsites become nuisances. This results in people asking for them to be removed. However, relocating or destroying bears does not resolve the problem, the province says, since other bears will take their place. The better solution is to remove food sources from residences and campsites, which will reduce the attraction for them to visit in the first place.

Black bears should never be approached or fed, whether intentionally or inadvertently. When walking, situational awareness is important, and the province’s handbook encourages carrying bear deterrents. Dogs should be kept on a leash as they may provoke a bear attack, and walkers, hikers and campers should make plenty of noise to keep bears away.

Home and cottage owners should secure garbage where bears can’t access it, in a bear-resistant container or building with electric fencing. Garbage containers should be cleaned regularly with bleach or ammonia. Garbage should not be burned, and food should not be composted outside. All bird feeders should be removed between April and November, and barbecues should be thoroughly cleaned after every use, including the grease trap. Pet food dishes should be kept indoors, and all fruit from trees should be picked and removed from yards as it ripens.

In a recent interview with the Sun, Riding Mountain National Park human wildlife interaction expert Tim Sallows said black bears are not comfortable around humans and do not seek out interactions with them.

“It’s best to just observe bears from afar,” he said. “They certainly don’t want to deal with people.”

By Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 04, 2023 at 08:46

This item reprinted with permission from   Brandon Sun   Brandon, Manitoba
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