Safety in Bear Country
In this section
The Northwest Territories (NWT) is home to black, grizzly and polar bears. When you're in the NWT, you're in bear country. Remember to follow basic bear safety precautions. Also, you are advised not to feed wildlife in the NWT.
Bears normally avoid contact with people. However, any wild animal can attack if cornered, threatened or wounded. The best bear safety method is prevention.
Unplanned bear encounters can be expected when people and bears occupy the same land. These encounters often results in the bear being destroyed.
As the human population expands, and as industrial development causes allows for more widespread penetration into bear country, conflicts between humans and bears will increase. Dealing with nuisance or problem bears is becoming an increasing bigger problem in the NWT during the spring and summer months.
When ENR is alerted to a bear that is posing a threat to public safety, our officers respond in a number of ways:
DETERENCE: Air horns, bear bangers or other loud noises can help bears keep moving if they are on the outskirts of town.
TRANQUILIZERS: Can take more than 10 minutes to take effect, and bears can become unpredictable – which is why they’re used only if it’s safe for people in the area. An unpredictable animal is a dangerous animal.
RELOCATION: Moving bears is a good option in some situations, but doesn’t work in others. Relocation is hard on the bear and lowers its chance of survival. Bears will often continue seeking out humans once they know they can find easy meals that way.
DISTPATCHING: Public safety is our top priority. ENR officers must assess each situation and the immediate risk to public safety. Dispatching is a last resort to keep the public safe (especially in community situations where families and children are close by) and is never a decision taken lightly.
Bear safety at home or cabin
The easiest way we can help protect both bears and people is simple: don’t extend the invitation!
- Bear proof your garbage. Bears can consume up to 25,000 calories a day, and the smell of garbage is a dinner bell they’ll remember. Keep your garbage inside (or in a shed) until collection day if you don’t have a bearproof container.
- Make loud noises to scare them away (air horns, bear bangers, yelling etc.) and let them know not to come back.
- Don’t clean fish or field dress animals outside close to communities, cabins, or homes. Tightly seal the remains in plastic bags before disposal, to cut down on smells.
- Consider not planting berry bushes right by your home or harvest the berries as soon as they’re ready.
- Clean up litter and roadside garbage when you can.
Bear safety on the land
Avoiding encounters with bears is the best approach. If you’re hiking or on the land remember to:
- Make noise
- Keep dogs on a leash
- Travel in groups
- Carry bear spray
- Pack it in / pack it out – don’t leave garbage or food waste behind
- When camping make sure food, garbage and anything with a pungent smell is bear proofed.
A sighting is not an emergency, as long as the animal is where it’s supposed to be and not behaving in a predatory or aggressive way.
REPORT A BEAR SIGHTING IF: The bear is near a populated area where people frequent, like a campground, community or dump, or if the animal is behaving aggressively. Report sightings to your local Environment and Natural Resources office and report a wildlife emergency using the 24-hour emergency wildlife numbers.