A Clinton resident had a close encounter with a bear last week when it tried to enter her solarium.
Marian Nelson heard a racket in her backyard around 11 p.m. Sept. 30. Suspecting a bear – as a few had been seen regularly around town over the past few weeks – she went out to take a peek.
“It sounded like it was caught up in my lawn furniture,” Nelson said, noting she has an all-glass solarium at the back of her house. “I went to look out and it kind of ran against the window in the door. We don’t know if it broke its nose or anything, but there were drops of blood. It scared the crap out of me.”
Nelson said it’s not unusual for bears to pass through her yard this time of year. She’s seen a few this fall, including two that appeared to be fighting in between her and her neighbour’s yards. After the bear hit the window, she decided to call the conservation officer.
“I’ve had bears in my yard but nothing this aggressive,” she said. “They’ve never ever come up towards the house.”
Clinton Mayor Susan Swan said she was aware of several bears in town and that village staff had been sharing “bear smart” information over the past several weeks in an attempt to remind residents to keep their yards free of attractants.
Many residents have posted information on social media, letting their neighbours know when a bear passes through their yard or gets into the garbage. However, reports of aggressive encounters – like Nelson’s – are worrisome, Swan said.
“I would hate to see anything happen to the bears because of what humans have done, but we also need to make sure that everyone is safe,” Swan said.
Conservation Officer Kane Kopp told the Free Press that reports of bear encounters are widespread throughout the region, as the animals prepare for their winter hibernation. The situation is worse than usual as the summer wildfires and hot, dry conditions have destroyed of their habitat and food supply.
“The bears had a poor season for their food, so they’re now looking for easy access to food sources,” Kopp said. “Where they’re going to find the food is unfortunately where people are.”
Kopp said that after several weeks of reminding residents of the dangers of leaving attractants in their yards, officers may need to increase their enforcement.
A Danger Wildlife Protection Order can be implemented on certain problem properties, which gives officers the authority to instruct residents to clean up their yards.
“If the order is complied with, then nothing has to happen,” Kopp said, noting that fines are often the last resort if residents aren’t willing to work with officers to find a solution.
Equally as important as keeping a tidy yard is informing conservation officers of a bear sighting near residences in a timely manner.
“If people call us ahead of time before it becomes a problem, we can help solve it in the best way possible,” Kopp said. “Unfortunately, people usually call us too late to be able to solve it peacefully.”