Bears awake and roaming in southern N.W.T.

·2 min read
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is reminding residents to be aware of bears this season and take safety precautions like bear-proofing garbage bins, keeping dogs on a leash, and carrying bear spray when hiking.  (Dean Cluff/ENR - image credit)
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is reminding residents to be aware of bears this season and take safety precautions like bear-proofing garbage bins, keeping dogs on a leash, and carrying bear spray when hiking. (Dean Cluff/ENR - image credit)

Bears in the southern Northwest Territories are beginning to wake from their spring slumber, according to tracking data from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Dean Cluff, a government wildlife biologist based in Yellowknife, collared eight bears with GPS tracking last September. The GPS indicates that six of the bears have emerged from their dens near the North Slave region.

"They're probably going around to some creeks and looking for fish and spawning pikes and so on," Cluff said.

Cluff says most of the bears are circling around in their home range, but it's still too early to determine exactly where they'll go. The tracking system in place is part of a larger food web study.

"This program is looking at the movements of bears, wolves and bison, boreal caribou and potentially moose. With collared animals we can look at the dynamics of the movements of bears," said Cluff.

Collaring bears is a relatively new practice. Back in 2011, Cluff collared three bears for the first time to see what would happen and if they could relocate them.

Dean Cluff/ENR
Dean Cluff/ENR

While some bears were seen out in April, Cluff predicts that sightings will become more common as the weather gets warmer. It's likely people will spot them alongside roads and near cabins, as they emerge from their dens and look for food.

If faced with a bear encounter, Cluff says it's important to know what species it is so you can decide how to respond. In Yellowknife, black bears are more commonly spotted but grizzlies also roam the region in smaller numbers.

Stop, stand still, stay calm 

"If you do encounter a bear, we have the three S's that we say: stopping, stand still and stay calm."

The environment department website lists a number of precautions to take in case of a bear sighting. Avoiding them altogether is the best approach, but if hiking or on the land you should:

  • Make noise

  • Keep dogs on a leash

  • Travel in groups

  • Carry bear spray

  • Don't leave garbage or food waste behind

  • Make sure food, garbage and anything with a pungent smell is bear proofed while camping

Cluff says bears normally avoid humans, but it's always smart to take precautions.

Report all bear sightings to the Environment and Natural Resources office and report a wildlife emergency using the 24-hour emergency wildlife numbers.

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