With almost 100,000 black bears, Ontario is a great place to combine fishing, canoeing, hiking and black bear viewing. Algonquin Park, within three hours of Toronto, has over 2,000 bears, one for every three kilometers giving you a great chance at the terrific adrenalin rush of photographing them up close. Chapleau, about 120 miles (190 km) northeast of Sault Ste. Marie and about 525 miles (850 km) north of Toronto, is recognized as “The Bear Capital of Ontario”.
June to September is the ideal time to view black bears. Many lodge operators have tracked the bears for years and their guides can easily lead you to a place where you have a 90 percent chance of photographing a 100 pound to 200 pound bear up close in the wild with her cubs. Black bears are quite intelligent with well developed short and long term memory so once they find a berry patch or food source they will return regularly and teach their cubs where to return. In fact Black bears have the heaviest brain, relative to body length, of any land carnivore. However they are not always black. Their body fur can be almost any combination of black, brown, cinnamon, blonde, and on a rare occasion even white. A white chest is fairly common in Ontario. Their muzzle is brown and their eyes are blue at birth then quickly turn brown. They are also daytime gatherers and only become nocturnal if they need to in order to avoid human contact.
Bears do not roam far. Mothers with cubs rarely range more than 1-2 miles, adult females double this on their own and males range 8-15 miles. Although they have been known to undertake Excursions over 200 125 miles, this is rare and usually only as a result of a desperate need to relocate for a better hunting and gathering locale.
It is always best to hike or canoe in pairs and ideally with a well trained and experienced guide especially when you intend to encounter a black bear. A lean black bear may exceed 30 miles/hour and can run well both up and down hills. Their climbing speed in trees is also very fast. Some guides carry a club and a loud fog horn or alarm for emergencies and it is always wise to carry pepper spray even though the chances of an attack are next to none. Usually bears are more curious than aggressive. They may approach, but will usually run if they sense that you are aware of their presence. It is not unusual to see bears on the trail in daylight hours, especially when that is your objective. Be particularly careful if you are travelling in an area where bears have been baited and NEVER feed a bear you see on any trail or park. If you are confronted by a bear and it is going to attack, pepper spray can be your saviour. Be sure to check the direction of the wind even if you are in a panic. You wouldn’t want it to back blow right into your eyes. This powerful spray can down a bear and give you ample time to remove yourself from the dangerous situation. If you are in a crisis situation, the worst thing you can do is panic and run. Never try to outrun a bear. A human doesn’t have that capability especially with a pack and you want to keep your pack on for its protective qualities and roll into a fetal position in case the bear gets serious.
Do not move until you are positive the bear is out of the area. Bears can and will re-attack if you decide to show signs of life or make noises. Be still and wait it out.