black bear whiteshell

Exploring nature and all it offers is exciting, but there are also risks. You are sharing that environment with animals that live in that habitat. Being safe while you explore when there may be black bears in the area is important. Understand they are protecting themselves; some may have cubs to care for.

Being proactive and aware of handling black bears in the wild will help you if there is any conflict. Do your part to limit your presence in their environment. Don’t leave food out where they can get into it. Don’t leave vehicles unlocked; they have been known to enter them! Bears that become difficult with humans may be killed or relocated, but that doesn’t resolve the problem. Other bears will just move into that location. The issue must be addressed, and humans must do their part.


Respecting the black bears and their livelihood is important when you explore areas of Manitoba, especially the Whiteshell. They tend to stay away from humans, but there are times when the paths will cross. If you explore paths in wooded areas, you are more likely to come into contact with one. They sometimes venture into campgrounds because they smell food. Don’t let the name fool you; these bears can also be brown! They are many different shades, including light blonde and cinnamon.

Black bears are intelligent animals with a keen sense of smell. They are shy, but they are curious and powerful. They can climb trees and swim across the water. They can run up to 30 mph for a short distance. They move around their habitat, searching for food. They rely on their sense of smell to help them find things. They often venture into the same territory often due to familiar smells.

Black bears have great memories, and finding food for survival is one of their main goals. They remember where they found food. If hikers leave food on a trail and a black bear finds it, they will frequently return to that spot to look for food. If the bear gets food at a campground, it may wander there again and again, looking for more food.

One of the best ways to keep black bears away from campsites and off the hiking trails is not to give them any reason to be there! They will spend their time and energy in a place where they have the best chance of securing food. A black bear will do just about anything for food, and they can quickly scare people or become a bother.

Basic Safety

Do your part to be safe in any location where you may encounter a black bear. This includes:

  • Be aware of your surroundings when hiking, always stay on the marked trails
  • Carry bear deterrent spray with you
  • Hike in groups and make some noise as you move along so you don’t startle a bear
  • Keep your distance if you see one; observe from far away
  • Never give a bear food or leave food where they can gain access
  • Pets should always be on a leash

Homes and Cottages

Living close to wildlife is exciting, and many people rent cottages around Manitoba to experience this. Homeowners and renters should take the following actions to reduce the likelihood of black bears coming around:

  • Clean trash cans with ammonia or bleach regularly to eliminate food odors
  • Trash should be in containers marked as bear-resistant


Anyone camping in areas where black bears could be around must take precautions not to attract them. This includes:

  • Avoid keeping food or eating food in your tent
  • Deterrents should be on hand, especially when in your tent
  • Dispose of garbage in the campsite bear-resistant containers
  • Keep the campsite clean
  • Keep vehicles locked, and don’t keep food in them that isn’t in airtight containers
  • Store food in airtight containers

Learn about Black Bears

While the thought of an encounter with a black bear can be intimidating, learn what you can about them. This will help you be proactive and less fearful. This includes:

  • Avoid hiking alone
  • Avoid scented body products, including soaps and perfumes
  • Be alert, don’t wear headphones
  • Carry an air horn to spook one away
  • Carry bear deterrent spray
  • Learn about their behaviours
  • Learn about their habitat
  • Watch for signs of bears in the area, including tracks, droppings, and claw marks on trees

What To Do If You See A Black Bear

Remain calm if you encounter a black bear. If they are at a distance, stop and assess the situation. Pay attention to what they are doing and go the other direction away from them. Move slowly away, don’t run, don’t climb a tree, and don’t go into the water. Running away or freaking out may cause the bear to chase you.

Often, bears will go about their business and not give you a second thought. If you see one in a tree, leave the area swiftly the same way you came. If you must take a detour, keep an eye on the path so you can return to it. Make sure the detour you take isn’t going to intersect with the bear if they start moving.

Should a bear take notice of you, talk to it calmly and rationally. Wave your arms as you do so and slowly back away from them to put more distance between you and the bear. Have your bear deterrent ready to use if you need to. Don’t make eye contact with the bear; look down. Keep your backpack on as you move away. Keep an eye on the bear as you move, and watch for any changes in their behaviour.

Bear Deterrent Spray

Having a bear deterrent spray with you is essential in case you encounter a black bear. This can allow you to get away from the area where you saw the bear if you feel they are acting aggressively toward you. Don’t spray your body, clothing, or tent with it.

This spray type contains capsaicin, similar to hot red pepper. It is mixed with a propellant. The smell will irritate the bear’s nose, respiratory system, and eyes. They will be distracted from you because they may temporarily lose sight. They will struggle to breathe, and the spray will sting.

The effects of such a product are only temporary; they won’t kill or cause any long-term problems for a bear. Carefully select your product and confirm it contains capsaicin. Toss out the product and replace it when it gets close to the expiration date.