Bears are back! Be aware of bears


Bears are emerging from hibernation in the Northwest Territories (NWT), and residents can take quick and easy steps to protect bears this season.

The NWT is bear country. It is home to black, grizzly and polar bears. Normally, bears avoid contact with humans, but if they or their cubs become accustomed to human food or garbage, they may lose their fear of humans and become a problem.

Encounters are most common in the spring when the bears emerge and in the late summer to fall as they work to fatten up for the winter. Avoiding encounters starts with not inviting bears into your home, cabin or community. Attractants are almost always the cause. Negative encounters are more likely when bears are in populated areas, and as bears become habituated to human food and garbage, they are more likely to stay near people and less likely to survive in the wild.

Don't invite them!

Take these steps to reduce the risk of encounters near communities, cabins, and homes:

  • NEVER feed wild animals.
  • Keep food, pet food, gas and other potential attractants indoors or in airtight containers.
  • Keep your trash bear-proof by storing it either indoors or in a shed or in a bear-proof container until collection day.
  • Do not clean fish or feed on captured wild animals near communities, cabins or houses. Dispose of remains safely and away from places where people are present to avoid human-bear conflicts.

Be prepared on site.

Take these steps to avoid negative bear encounters on land:

  • Bring repellents like bear spray or bear poppers with you – and know how to use them.
  • Don't leave trash or leftover food behind and check your campsite.
  • Make noise, travel in groups and carry bear spray.
  • Always keep your dog on a leash.
  • Be on the lookout for new bear signs and leave the area if you find any.

If you see a bear:

  • Keep distance.
  • Go back quietly.
  • Try to stay downwind to avoid the bear smelling you.
  • Make loud noises to scare them away.
  • Report all sightings in and around the community to your area's wildlife emergency number.

If a bear attacks:

  • Make loud noises and don't turn around.
  • Many accusations are bluffs. The bear often moves to the side at the last moment.
  • Only use bear spray at close range.
  • If you have a gun and contact seems unavoidable, shoot to kill.
  • If you are playing dead during a bear attack, lie on your side and curl into a ball with your legs close to your chest and your hands clasped behind your neck.
  • If you are safe, report it immediately to your area's wildlife emergency number.

Avoiding bear encounters starts with you! Download the “Safety in Bear Country” brochure for further information on bear protection.

For media inquiries please contact:

Shannon Graf
Chief Communications Officer
Ministry of Environment and Climate Change
Government of the Northwest Territories
[email protected]
867-767-9230 ext 53041