I love black bears. We see them quite often, particularly in Algonquin Park. Two years ago we went to Northern Ontario and last year to Northwestern Ontario and we heard of bears being there; but regrettably we saw none. But in Algonquin, we see them regularly. We are very respectful of bears and very wary. OR we are beary wary lol. I am actually more nervous around moose. Moose are unpredictable. Bears, I find, can be a little more predictable. Especially the habituated bears that we normally see. Don’t get me wrong, bears also make me nervous !
Story One – In June 2016, we were camping in Lake of Two Rivers campground in (where else?) Algonquin Park. One day we had been hiking or canoeing, or both, and we finished the day off by sitting in our campsite having a beverage or five. We were both reading and I looked up and there was a bear, (photo above) standing by our campfire pit, less than 20 feet from us. We slowly got up from our chairs, being careful not to turn our backs to him, and headed to our trailer. We went inside, and of course got our cameras and watched him. He left and walked through every campsite down to the beach area and back. He was a young bear, maybe two years old. He came through almost every day. One morning we were just getting our coffee to take outside and the warden came to our trailer to tell us that the bear had just walked through our site again. They were trying to trap him to take him up north. My husband said he looked sad, the bear, not the warden. And he did seem to have sad eyes. The girls at the store told us it was a cub of the three footed bear mom that always hung around the campgrounds. She had twins one year and maybe he was one of them. Apparently, she was killed by a car. This is all hearsay.
One day we were biking down to Rock Lake on the old Railway Line and we ran into a couple who were walking their bikes back the way we had come. They told us a bear was following them. So we got off our bikes and walked with them because sure enough a bear was following about 30 feet behind. And Guess Who? He certainly gets around this little guy. Every time we would stop, he would stop. Finally, we all decided to lay on our bike bells and he took off into the woods. We turned around and continued to Rock Lake and the other couple continued on their way.
Long story short, when we returned to Algonquin in October of the same year, the Warden told us they had transported the little bear up north someplace. I hope so and I hope he learns to live as he should. Not that it’s his fault, he isn’t living as he should. We humans are dumber than dirt when it comes to wildlife. I see so many people feeding wildlife or baiting wildlife to get that great shot or going to their dens or nests to take photos. It’s okay to take photos or enjoy the viewing of wildlife but common sense should prevail. We saw a lot of bears this year for some reason. Along the hwy and roads and sometimes just wandering along the side of the road eating. Not sure why this year they were more visible.
Story Two – We used to do a lot of interior, or backcountry, canoe trips. Fun times ! We mostly went into different areas of Algonquin Park. We usually went with my sister and her husband. One year we went from Rock Lake into Pen Lake, quite a number of years ago. I think it took 2 portages to get there and there were some lovely sites on Pen Lake. The day we got there however, there was only one site available and it wasn’t so lovely ! We took it as we had no choice, and it was end of the day and who wanted to canoe/portage back? Not us. So we set up camp and had our dinner and off to our little tents for sleep. We had hung our food buckets up in the trees but my brother-in-law did not. Long story short, I woke up about 5 a.m. because I heard a big racket going on and thought Oh My God, who is it up this early? I peeked out and about 20 feet away, there was a bear with her paws wrapped around one of my sister’s buckets and she was using her mouth to try to get the lid off. At that time we used old wine making buckets and the lids were extremely difficult to get off. I guess I startled her, probably not as much as she startled/terrified me………but anyways……..she took off with the bucket followed by two cubs. I woke everyone else up, I mean why should I be the only one scared and awake at 5 a.m.? We should all participate in this nightmare. So from a great distance, we watched her get the lid off and go to town. After they were finished their breakfast, we cleaned up the mess they left and had our breakfast. Lesson learned……always, always make sure everyone in your group hangs their food up. I mean bears can climb pretty easy but at least it might slow them down. For my husband and I, we ended up purchasing the big expensive MEC barrels. No one is getting into them ! Sometimes we can’t even get into them lol
Later that morning we watched the people across the lake from us, on a beautiful beach site I might add, appear to be packing up. My husband and brother-in-law got in a canoe and paddled over to see. Sure enough they were leaving so we packed up quick and left for the beach site. Now for those of you who don’t know a lot about bears, this was not saving us from future bear visits, bears are excellent swimmers. Is there anything they can’t do? It was a great site, our tents were back in the trees but we had a beautiful long beach all to ourselves. Well, not exactly…………guess who else shared it with us ? She was in our site every day. But we had all our food hung high and even though she would climb the trees and teach her little ones, they didn’t get any more food. For the first few days…….. And then one day, we had all went out for a day long paddle and we returned to our site, we could smell red wine ! Which was in my sister’s other food backpack. Upon investigation we discovered that somehow the bear had also gotten this second yummy food container down which was strung between the trees, and ate everything in that container. We cleaned up that mess and went through mine and my husband’s food bucket to ensure we had enough food for the 4 of us to stay the rest of our trip and we did. With rationing……… From that point on, whenever we left our camp, I lugged that bucket around on my back. It went in the canoes with us and I carried it on all our hikes. I was pretty protective about that bucket, simply because I didn’t want to go home early and I was pretty sure the bears didn’t have food that we could steal. We kept seeing a Park’s Float plane flying around. One day we saw it land and let out two Rangers with their canoe, rifles and bear traps. We spoke to them and they said they were trying to trap this mom bear. I said stick with us ! We know where she is ! We then asked “what about the babies” and the answer wasn’t what we wanted to hear. I don’t know if they would have shot them all or not. When we left the park, we spoke to the Warden at the gate about the bears and he said they were going to transport the bear family. Two different stories…….I prefer to believe the Warden.
So after our time was done at Pen Lake, we headed back. We stayed two nights on an interior site on Rock Lake. I woke up early the first morning because I had to go to the bathroom and I asked my husband to go with me. He said we are away from the bears so you can go on your own. When we were at the other site, no one went anywhere by themselves or were left alone. So I got out of the tent and off I headed, I came back to the tent and just as I reached it, I heard a noise and sure enough there was a bear poking around our backpacks that we had hung on a tree (no food, the food was all hung up away from our camp) I said loudly for the other three to hear, “There’s a bear out here” which of course, no one believed me ! And to top if off it was a mom bear with two cubs. I can’t make this stuff up. However, it was quite definitely another bear. She was skinnier, scruffier and had a huge scar on her hip. (on a side note why doesn’t spellcheck recognize the word scruffier? I’m pretty sure it’s a word, I use it all the time ) But I digress…………she and her cubs snooped around the site and tried to climb the trees to get to our bucket but to no avail. We had hung that one up really good and really high and there was no way she was getting it, unless she chewed the rope holding it between the trees. So that was an adventure and we were glad to be going home. We also had to give descriptions of the bears and the locations to the Warden when we left so they could keep an eye out and let other people know.
We have always called that the “Summer of the Bears” since then.
Story Three – One year we went to Carcajou Bay off Grand Lake. As we paddled over to the entrance of the Bay, we spotted something swimming in the water. As we are all older and apparently can’t see too well, we all said it’s loons ! Well it wasn’t, it was a mom bear and cub swimming from one side of the bay to the other. How could we mistake a loon for a bear you might ask? Well if you are older you shouldn’t have to ask. We got to our site and everything was okay but later we went for a paddle and we stopped at the last site on the right before the falls and sure enough there was a quite a bit of bear scat right on the trail heading into the site and in the site itself. Glad we didn’t stay there.
So I don’t have any more bear stories but to finish, we do see bear signs quite often on hikes. Tracks, scat, etc. We have seen quite a few in Algonquin Park, usually as I mentioned before, on the side of the road or the old airfield or occasionally on a trail. Typically bears will run if they sense people, they normally don’t hang around. About two years ago there were two young, (very young cubs) playing on a rock on the side of the hwy. Lots of people stopped to get photos. No sign of the mom bear until about 20 minutes later, we all heard a sound from deep in the woods and the two babies turned and hightailed it to wherever their mom was. They sure do listen well.
We are very respectful of all wildlife and we normally do not wander off alone. We always carry bear spray but have never had to use it. Give wildlife a large berth and stay out of their way and hopefully they will stay out of yours.