FREDERICTON (GNB) – Spring and early summer are the most common times of year for black bear sightings in New Brunswick. The Department of Energy and Resource Development advises homeowners and campers on how to prepare themselves should they encounter a black bear.

Although black bear attacks are extremely rare, people need to realize that bears are wild animals that demand respect.

Found throughout the province's mainland, the black bear is the only bear species in New Brunswick. Although they live primarily in forests, bears sometimes wander into urban areas.

Conflicts between people and bears have increased as suburban sprawl encroaches into former bear habitat and as more people use New Brunswick's woodlands for recreation. In rural areas, conflicts between people and bears arise when bears damage personal property, beehives, livestock and agricultural crops.

A black bear will take advantage of any food available and will attempt to eat anything that resembles food in looks, smell or taste.

When natural foods such as nuts, berries, insects and tender vegetation are scarce, bears search actively for anything to eat. This is when bears most often come in contact with people. When bears find a source of food, they will usually return regularly.

Most bears are wary of people and will usually leave when encountered, however bears can become a nuisance when they visit homes, cottages, campgrounds and businesses. People must always be cautious around bears since they may react unpredictably.

The best way to avoid bear problems is to not attract them in the first place.

Bears are attracted to homes and camps mainly by garbage and bird feeders. Pet food, charcoal grills, fruit trees and gardens may also attract bears. Once a bear finds food around a home, it will likely return.

Never feed bears as they can learn to associate people with food and may become a problem. Once a bear becomes accustomed to receiving food from people, its aggressiveness can lead to personal injuries or property damage, and the animal will have to be destroyed.

To minimize bear problems on your property:

  • Reduce garbage odours. Rinse food cans and wrappers before disposal.
  • Compost vegetable scraps.
  • Keep meat scraps in your freezer until garbage pickup day.
  • Wash garbage cans regularly and use lime or baking soda to reduce odours.
  • Keep garbage cans in a bear-proof container or in a closed garage until the morning of pickup.
  • Remove bird feeders, especially those with suet, by early April. If you feed birds during summer, remove feeders at night.
  • Keep barbecue grills and picnic tables clean.
  • Use energized electric fencing to keep bears out of beehives, gardens, fruit trees and berry patches.
  • If a bear comes in a yard, do not panic. Do not approach the bear or shoot it. Do not allow any pet dogs to go outside.

Most bears fear people and will leave when they see you, however, if a bear woofs, snaps its jaws, slaps the ground or brush, or bluff charges, then you are too close. If you find yourself in this situation, back away slowly, go inside and wait for the bear to leave.

Anyone who encounters an aggressive bear, or has a recurring or persistent nuisance problem, or suffers property damage from a black bear is advised to contact their local Energy and Resource Development office.

The tips on pet food, bird feed and garbage handling are also effective in reducing problems with raccoons, skunks, coyotes and foxes, which are a more common nuisance than bears.

More information on dealing with bears is available online.