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Black Bear in Ontario:
Worth Waiting For!

Black Bear in Ontario is a page outlining the best places and times to see bears in Ontario and some pointers to safety while doing so. The absolutely best places in Ontario to see black bears are Algonquin Park and the Chapleau Crown Game Preserve.



For most visitors, Algonquin Park is your best option for seeing one of Ontario's many black bears. Only a few hours from Toronto and southern Ontario, it has good motels and resorts nearby to accommodate visitors. And it has plenty of campgrounds and lodges inside the park for staying over and canoeing, which is the best way of seeing the Park. You can hike but because the trails are through forested areas, it's often hard to see much of the bigger picture.

Black bear Ontario, cinnamon bear

Ontario bears are member of the black bear species and they're found throughout most of the province, with the exception of the most populated south and south-western regions. They're also, thinner on the ground in the far north bordering Hudson's Bay and James Bay.

But bears are reasonably plentiful throughout the lower edges of northern Ontario from Ottawa to Kenora (east to West) and Peterborough to north of Sudbury (south to north). See link below for a map of your best hope of seeing a bear.

This photo, of a cinnamon coloured bear was taken at Ahmic Lake near Magnetawan, courtesy of Ginger Cooper and family.

When to See Black Bear in Ontario

Black Bear Ontario, bear climbing a tree

Black Bear in Ontario hibernate from around October - November to April-May. They begin waking and looking for food when the snow is melting, new growth is appearing in the forests, and young animals are being born, such as deer fawns. Bears, like humans, are omnivorous, that is they eat from all the food groups, though for the most part they're 'vegetarians'.

With somewhere between 75 - 100,000 black bears in Ontario, there's a good chance of seeing a bear in the region described. Particularly, if you're looking out for them at dusk or early in the morning. If you do, be careful in the spring when the mothers are looking after cubs as they can become very defensive if they think their young are being threatened - a bit like human mothers, in fact:-)

Mating happens in June and July with babies born in January to February. The young are weaned by the following May-June and fend for themselves after that. A popular time to see bears is in August when they forage in wild blueberry patches, scaring the humans who are foraging there too.

Black Bear Ontario, bear in municipal dump

Sadly, the most likely spot to see Black Bear in Ontario is at the municipal dump of northern Ontario towns. For years, people have driven their cars to the dump of an evening to watch the bears materialize out of the surrounding forests in the dusk. Most northern towns have now instituted 'bear wise' policies regarding dumps so household scraps are contained in closed bins. This has reduced the number of bear sightings but it does mean, if you're camping, you must keep your foodstuff sealed because bears are really clever at getting at them and can harm you if they become agitated in their search. This photo, courtesy of Caillin Peever and family, was taken at a municipal dump.

I sub-titled the page 'worth waiting for' because even in a good location and at the right time of year and day, you have to be patient. Black Bear in Ontario are shy of humans and avoid us when they can.

Black bear Ontario, bear swimming near massey

Another great spot for seeing black bears is Crystal Lake, a lake and township between Bobcaygeon and Minden. Although the bears are usually hanging around the town's dump, they can be viewed in a more natural setting as they come out of the forest on their way into the dump, as this one below was.

Black bear at Crystal Lake, Ontario, Canada

The Chapleau Crown Game Preserve has the most bears but for most visitors to Ontario, it's too far out of the way. It's about a six hour drive north of Sault St. Marie. However, if you're an angler, the game preserve  should be on your list because the nearby town of Chapleau is rated one of the best fishing spots in Ontario. When you're out in the woods, keep in mind, bears run faster than you, climb trees better than you, and swim better than you. They are not to be fooled around with! This bear swimming photo, taken near Massey, is courtesy of Val McCormick and family

Visit our other Animal and Animal Pictures pages, or return to Ontario Wildlife.

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