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The information on this page is gathered from several sources and is presented as information only. MISTERCANOEHEAD.COM cannot be held responsible for any and all inconvenienences, injuries, etc. associated with encounters with wildlife.
Wildlife should be observed only.
  • Do not approach, feed, touch or follow wild animals.
  • Do not disturb their nests/dens.
  • Do not handle their young.
  • Take pictures (at a distance). Enjoy their sights and sounds.
  • Wild animals are especially dangerous if they are with their young, or feel trapped, or threatened.
    Moose harm more people each year in Ontario than bears.
    Although raccoons and other small mammals may seem harmless, cute, and funny looking, they will bite and claw. They also could carry diseases that might be detrimental to you.
    Do not approach them.
    Do not feed them or you will regret it.

    In Dec. 2004, Health Canada announced a decision to ban repellents with higher than 30% concentrations of DEET from stores.
    As well, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine was published indicating that DEET repellents give the best protection from mosquitoes.
    Avoiding insect bites can be difficult, but before you use an insect repellent, try these methods:
    - Wear light-coloured clothing.
    - Don't use scented soaps, hair spray, perfume, etc. when outdoors.
    - Burn citronella candles.
    - Stay away from stagnant water at dusk and dawn.

    If these fundamental precautionary measures are not enough, repellents are the next step.

    DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) is the most effective and widely used chemical in insect repellents. It is a toxin, so you should choose the lowest DEET concentration that you need.
    In most situations, less than 30% DEET will adequately protect an adult.

    When selecting a DEET product, remember that lower DEET concentrations are as good as higher concentration products, but for a shorter time period.
    As a rule of thumb, products with 5-6% DEET are good for 2 hours, 7-10% for 3 hours, 11-14% for 4 hours, 15-21% for 5 hours, and 22-30% for 6 hours.
    When you use DEET repellents, be aware that there are some dangerous side effects that have been associated with improper use, particularly with children being exposed to high concentrations.

    DEET Repellent Use Guidelines for Everyone:
    - Follow the instructions on the label.
    - Keep DEET repellents away from wounds or scratches.
    - If you're wearing natural fibre clothing, apply DEET products to your clothing rather than directly on your skin. Note that DEET may damage synthetic clothing.
    - Apply DEET products before sunscreen, otherwise DEET reduces sunscreen's effectiveness.
    - Wash your hands after applying DEET and before eating, and wash off DEET products as soon as you are away from the bugs.
    - Do not use DEET products for prolonged daily use due to health risks.
    Natural Insect Repellent
    Natural oil-based repellents often contain only plant-based ingredients such as citronella, and are not as effective as chemical-based repellents. However, natural oil-based repellents are safer, making them a good choice for children, those who suffer from skin irritations, and those who use insect repellent for extended periods of time. Note that some people are allergic to essential oils, so test a patch of essential-oil-based repellent on your skin before using it.

    Keep in mind that natural oil-based insect repellents need to be applied frequently in order to remain effective. Products that contain citronella may last up to twenty minutes, while eucalyptus oil products last an average of two hours.

    There are some additional things that you should know about repellents.
    These files are from good sources. (in PDF format)
    Article from The New England Journal of Medicine
    Health Canada Pest Management Publication
    Health Canada Safety Tips brochure
    Tick Information Link:
    Health Canada Tick Information


    Bears are beautiful animals that deserve our respect.
    Adult bears are usually bigger, stronger and faster than humans. Those that aren't (cubs), are very often accompanied by one that is (mother).
    Don't ever get between a bear cub and the mother. Mother bears are very protective and will take you out if necessary - her decision - not yours!
    Bears have good eyesight and hearing and an excellent sense of smell. They are good climbers and strong swimmers, so a tree or an island may not provide refuge.
    Most bear encounters happen along a portage or in camp. Check with the local park authorities to find out about recent bear activity before you leave on your trip.
    Most parks that contain active bears will also have some suggestions on how you should behave.
    Statistically, you are in greater danger of being grievously harmed by bees, your family pet or lightning, than by bears.
    The bottom line is to avoid a confrontation, if at all possible.

    Bear Encounters:

    Stop. Do not panic. Remain calm.

    If a bear approaches you, do not run. Bears can run more than 40 km per hour, and you can't. Don't try to escape by running downhill. It's a myth that bears can't run downhill - they can out run you anywhere.
  • Do not try to get closer to the bear for a better look or picture.
  • Do not try to escape by jumping into a lake. Bears are great swimmers.
  • If you have a dog, do not let it off the leash. An off-leash, excited dog will only make a the bear more upset.
  • Keep watching the bear, but don't make direct eye contact.
  • Travel in groups of 2 or more (bears primarily attack people who are alone)
  • Allow the bear an escape route, since it probably wants to get away from you.
  • Raise your arms to look taller/bigger, stand on a stump or rock if possible.
  • If you are part of a group, stay in a tight group, you will look "bigger".
  • Yell at the bear.
  • Use a whistle, air horn, bear bangers or flares.
  • If it comes within four or five metres, use bear spray and target the face. Bear Spray (Pepper Spray) has been shown to be over 90% effective at close range.
    Note: Some people have actually sprayed their campsite with the stuff, thinking that it will deter the bears. This only wastes it and dilutes it to a point where bears probably enjoy it as a condiment for their repast.
  • "Bear Bells" are not that useful because they are not loud enough.
  • Minimize Bear Experiences:

    Bears are usually more active at dawn and dusk. Stay on marked trails and be aware of any warnings. Be alert and aware of your surroundings and make noise as you go. Noise will give the bear time to get out of your way. Bears are normally afraid of humans and will avoid a direct confrontation. If you see a bear in the distance, leave the area or try to give it wide berth. Do not approach a bear even if it does not seem to be threatening. If it is standing up or sniffing the air, it is trying to identify you.
    Once in a while, a bear will false-charge, turning away at the last second. If it charges, stand your ground. Most charges are bluffs. If this happens when you are in the middle of a meal, leave the area immediately. Always let the park authorities know of such an encounter. Food-conditioned bears lose their natural fear of humans and can become increasingly bold as they begin to associate people with an easy meal. Bears that become used to eating human food won't lose their taste for it and park officials, in many cases, are forced to kill them.

    Check each campsite for bear scat. If the scat is relatively fresh, consider moving on to another site.
    A bear in camp has one objective - food!
    Food to a bear can include cosmetics, toothpaste, sunscreen, insect repellents and garbage.
    In order to bear proof your site as much as possible, you will have to eliminate or move anything that will attract it.
    Keep all food handling, cooking and consumption at least 50 metres away from your tent. This may be difficult in some areas, but you will have to judge what is safest based on the possibility of bears in that area. Hanging food bags between two trees seems to be the most common option. This should be done 50 metres away from the tent, if at all possible.
    Sealine bags or olive jars, if hung properly, are good ways of preventing odours from attracting bears. As well, raccoons, porcupines, squirrels, etc. will be discouraged from sharing your food. Dishwater should be disposed of by throwing it into the bush at least 50 metres away from camp. This allows the soil to filter out any solids. Bears like fish, so clean any that you catch away from camp, and get rid of the remains by leaving on a rock or out in the lake or river for the gulls, eagles, etc.
    Wash up away from the campsite after handling food to prevent smells transferring to your gear. Any garbage that smells like fish should be burned.
    Do not bury garbage! Bears will dig it up and present problems for the next users of the campsite. Do not dispose of leftover food in the latrine/thunderbox, as bears will find it and destroy the latrine/thunderbox in the process, thus reducing a 5 star site to a 2 star in one go.

    Keeping a fire going all night may deter some bears, but can be inconvenient when you have to get up several times to maintain it. Also, in well used campsites, bears may be used to it and not be put off.
    If a bear does come into your campsite, don't panic! It is usually frightened off by loud noises, such as whistles or the banging of pots or paddles against trees and yelling. Don't move towards a bear. It will think that you are invading its space - not good.

    If the bear is stubborn and won't leave, you should find another campsite. Discretion is the better part of valour. This latter comment is based on experience!

    Food Storage

    There are two schools of thought on food storage.
    Hanging from trees or putting on the ground in the bush.
    My preference is hanging. Hanging a food pack in a tree involves more than just hauling it up a tree. Remember that bears are good climbers and will destroy a pack if only one tree is used to suspend the food.
    There needs to be distance away from the tree in order to make it difficult, if not impossible, for the bear to get at the pack. Hanging should done at least 50 metres away from camp, if at all possible. You will need about 25 metres (80 - 100 feet) of rope to do this.

    Decide whether you will attach the food containers to the middle before the rope goes up, or use a pulley to haul them into place after the horizontal rope is in place. In either case, a loop should be made in the middle of the rope. Toss one end of the rope over a suitable branch and secure that end of the line. The knots will have to be of a type that can be undone easily after there is considerable tension applied to them.
    The other end of the rope is tossed and tied in similar fashion after attaching the food containers or pulley to the centre loop. if the food is heavy, it may be difficult to raise it to the expected level by only pulling on the ropes. Get someone to toss them up as you pull on the ropes. This will make them easier to raise.
    Some adjustment may be necessary in order to centre the food between the trees, keeping in mind that at least 3 metres away from both trees is best.
    We have often tied a couple of pots to the food hang so that if it is disturbed we'd hear the pots.
    Having done all this, remember that in rare cases a bear may have learned to sever the ropes without climbing the trees.
    Putting food containers at ground level away from camp (at least 50 metres) in the bush is practised, with success, by many trippers. The caveat is that there must be no smell attached to these containers.

    Whatever method you use, remember to put your garbage with the food. (Away from your tent!)
    Other Information Sources:
    The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources page has good information on  Bears
    Also, check out  The North American Bear Center