After hibernating through the long winter months, Nova Scotia’s black bears are out and about at this time of year and are constantly looking for food. While there is an abundance of natural foods, bears are known to search for food from other sources, including rural backyards and subdivisions at the edge of towns and cities. Black bears are the only kind of bear found in Nova Scotia. Bear sightings in communities and near homes should be reported to the Department of Natural Resources. Trained and experienced staff will determine the appropriate action. During business hours, call a local Natural Resources office. After hours, and on weekends and holidays, call toll-free 1-800-565-2224. In most cases, the problem can be solved by removing food sources but, in some cases, live trapping and relocating the bear may be necessary. If the bear is bold or aggressive, or appears to be overly dependant on food provided by humans, it may have to be put down. In their search for food, bears are attracted to garbage, composters, green bins, and bird feeders. Home and cottage owners, campers and hikers should take the following steps to reduce the likelihood of attracting bears: Never leave garbage lying around properties or camp. If possible, garbage containers should be made of metal and kept away from forested areas or stored in a building. When leaving camps or cottages, garbage should be removed. Do not pour cooking fats outside, near homes, cottages or camps. Keep barbecue grills clean and free of grease. If household pets are fed outdoors, make sure leftovers and spills are cleaned up. Bird feeders should be removed at night in areas where bears are common or if a bear is known to be in the area. The feeders should be removed for several days until the bear has left. Composters should be properly used, which means meat and fish scraps should not be included. Compost should be turned often to prevent odours and to hasten decomposition. Lime can be used to reduce odours and make the compost unattractive to bears. Compost green bins should be kept in shady but open areas away from forest cover. Meat, fish scraps and kitchen waste may develop a strong odour. They should be wrapped well in newspaper or frozen and put in the green bin on collection day. Green bins should be washed often to get rid of lingering smells. Keep calm. Back away slowly while watching the bear. Do not run. If you see a bear before it sees you, leave the area. If it is not possible to leave the area entirely, move upwind to let the bear catch your scent. If the bear is more than 100 metres away, make enough noise for it to become aware of you. Talk in a calm, authoritative voice. If a bear approaches you or begins to follow you, drop an article of clothing, your backpack, water bottle or anything with your scent on it, and leave the area quickly. The bear should stop to investigate the article and this will give you time to move away. If you encounter a female bear with cubs, act non-threatening. Do not make sudden movements and avoid direct eye contact. Leave the area immediately. Never get between a female and her cubs. In most cases a female will immediately send her cubs up a tree if she senses danger. She may follow the cubs, sit at the base of the refuge tree or even leave the area temporarily. If a bear should attack, do not play dead. If there is no way to avoid an attack, act aggressively by shouting, waving your arms, and throwing rocks or sticks. Leave the area at the first possible opportunity. Bears are normally shy of people. There has never been a reported incident of a bear injuring a person in Nova Scotia. However, they have the potential to be dangerous so use caution if a bear is sighted or when in an area where bears may be expected to be present. Hikers or walkers who see a black bear should take the following precautions: Do not attempt to shoot a nuisance bear. It is illegal to kill a bear unless it poses an imminent threat to human safety. In populated and developed areas use of a firearm could pose an added threat to human safety. For information about bears see the Department of Natural Resources website at www.gov.ns.ca/natr/wildlife .