The GNWT Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) received a report of a bear last week but to date there have been no injuries and the frequency of encounters in and around Hay River has been comparable to other years.
“We received a report of a bear on Sept. 8 in the evening in old town,” said Jessica Davey-Quantick, spokesperson, adding that the bear was attracted to the smell of a barbecue.
“The number of bears that have been relocated or dispatched within communities this summer is similar to previous years. It is not uncommon for bears to come in contact with people and communities in search of food — especially in the late summer when they are actively feeding to get ready to hibernate.”
Officials are asking residents to be remain cautious and “bear aware,” however.
Sensible, preventative measures that people can take to avoid attracting bear encounters include managing food and garbage on household property so that the animals don’t become used to humans.
Davey-Quantick said one of the biggest problems with bears is that they become accustomed to human food when it is easily accessible. That can lead to a greater tendency of the animal continuing to return to the food source and potentially putting vulnerable people and pets at risk .
“Our preferred method is to deter or relocate wild animals when possible, but public safety is our first priority – particularly when children and families are nearby,” she said. “Moving bears is a good option in some situations, but doesn’t work in others.”
The department has continued putting out notices, warnings and signs when it is appropriate and when there is a risk for interactions between bears and wildlife or humans, she said. This has been done all over the territory.
“Signs are posted in those areas when wildlife has been spotted near populated areas or areas where people and pets frequent, and are removed when the animal has moved on or is otherwise no longer considered a threat,” she said.
“In the recent Hay River sighting, signs were put up to notify the public.”
People should contact the department immediately when a bear is spotted through its emergency wildlife phone at 875-7640. The phone line is monitored by a wildlife life officer through bear season and reports are responded to as the come in.