POLITICS

Close your doors: nuisance bears find trouble across country

07/03/2015 04:00 EDT | Updated 07/02/2016 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Nuisance bears: they raid fridges, help themselves to trash and even crash parties.

This year, the hungry mammals have forced trail closures in Alberta, ripped through screen doors to steal food inside Ontario cabins, settled for eating cake out of the garbage near Ottawa, and one cub broke into a parked car in Manitoba.

The lumbering beasts wreak havoc every year as they go through their binge to bulk up for the winter.

One expert says the annual ordeal tends to escape people's minds until it starts happening, so many fail to prepare.

Mike McIntosh of the Bear With Us sanctuary in Sprucedale, Ont., said Canada's natural berry season is still a couple of weeks away, so bears are wandering around searching for food left out by humans.

He suggests stowing away obvious attractors such as bird feed, pet food and composters — and shutting doors.

"It just gets forgotten, what it was like the year before," he said.

"I've visited a couple of people's cottages that the bear has broken into and raided the refrigerator and emptied out the cupboards. But in both cases it could have been prevented by having the doors closed...If you have the door closed and it's only a screen door, that's an open door to an animal. They just walk right through the screen."

McIntosh said he has received many bear-related calls this year, totalling about 75 in his Parry Sound-Muskoka district of central Ontario.

In all of Ontario, there have been more than 1,400 calls about bears since April 1, about 500 fewer than last year at the same time.

The province recently finished its final year of a two-year spring bear hunt pilot project for residents in northern areas that have reported high levels of human-bear conflict.

No numbers are yet available for the 2015 hunt, but the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry said about 850 people participated last year.

Ministry spokeswoman Jolanta Kowalski said those numbers reflect hunters who submitted reports on their kills.

The province has said that it restarted the hunt for public safety reasons.

But McIntosh said people shouldn't worry too much about getting attacked — he has dealt with bears that break into chicken coops and eat the feed while leaving the birds unharmed — and said vigilance is key.

"It's people's habits that start it all," he said.

"And unfortunately, some people don't really seem to give a darn."