Bear risk management

My lovely wife wants to take me camping next weekend. I’ve never been camping but understand camping was a part of her life before we met. I’ve explained that I am not averse to camping despite the dirt, cold, sleeping on the ground, canned beans, raccoons, no wifi, poison ivy, bugs and bears. But am quite looking forward to it!

While looking for camp sites in central Ontario, Killbear Provincial Park seemed like the choice. With a name that includes the verb ‘kill’ and the noun ‘bear’ I imagine it must be safe! She began doing some research on tripadvisor.com and found the following comments from a few weeks ago.

The park and the water are outstanding, we would love to come back any time, but a threatening bear encounter will make us think twice.

I had my car lights spraying the site and direction of where the Bear was as we were tearing down we were loading the trunk – I then heard a thud and crack and turned to see the Black Bear with its head in my trunk trying to get into the car…

…We had a bear snuffing and growling right outside of our tent and stamping its paws so hard the ground trembled. We left shortly after, and stayed at a hotel for the first night.

Immediately after reading these comments my beautiful wife decide against Killbear because the Bear Risk was too great. But is there more risk than other nearby sites we were considering?

Being the risk manager that I am I was curious if the Bear Risk at Killbear was as “extremely likely” as she would believe from these comments and did a quick assessment:

According to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources “Since the early 1900s there have been fewer than 70 deaths in North American as a result of black bears”. ( I guess it only said ‘killed’, there was no mention of how many people were de-gloved by bears.)

The same ministry provides a map to illustrate the density of bears in parts of Ontario. Killbear, and all the other sites we were looking at north of Toronto are located in the brown shaded area. Conclusion: Killbear should have the same number of bears as all the other sites so why not go there anyway!

Although we will do proper bear risk management when we camp like hide our food and clean up at night there is always a possibility there will be a bear. People do this all the time by assessing a risk based on limited information (see comments above) or emotion.

I say that if we jump to the conclusion that bears will attack us next weekend just because people saw bears a few weeks ago, THEN THE BEARS WIN.

Assess your risks carefully and manage them accordingly.

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