Back in August 2005, we were on a camping trip at Killbear Provincial Park. One morning, I was the first one in our family to wake up, around 6:30 am. As I unzipped our tent and looked across the road to the campsite facing us, I saw a black bear rummaging through their camping gear in the screen house. As soon as the bear saw me, he ran away. The people who were camping there had left some food in their dining area overnight, which drew the attention of the wandering bear. As soon as these campers woke up, I told them that a bear had visited their campsite. They had a look of terror on their faces. Always put your food away and clean up when you have finished eating. See my previous post on Keeping Bears and other Wild Animals off Your Campsite.
I am a firm believer that bears are generally timid and will run away from you at first sight, provided that you have not fed, startled, or angered them. In all my years of camping, this is one of only a few times that I stumbled upon a bear, and he ran away from me at first sight. When camping in Ontario, always read the information guides provided to learn about the animal situation at the park and follow what is recommended. I read the information guides all of the time, just so I know what to do if I have a bear encounter. Here is the most common advice that I see in the information guides regarding black bears:
Do NOT Feed or Approach Bears: In most cases, a bear will flee when it hears or smells you, long before you even see it.
Safety: If you are near a building or vehicle, then go there for safety.
Stand Your Ground: If the bear charges you, it is usually a bluff, so waive your hands and start talking to him so that you appear bigger than you are to him and slowly back away from the area. Bears have bad eyesight, and this may be enough to scare him away. If you are with others, stay as a group, but make sure that the bear has a clear escape route.
Make Noise: Use a whistle, air horn, or bear spray if you have them. You could also try banging pots together or using bear clappers. I have also read articles about people scaring off bears with bright flashlights.
Do NOT Run Away or Climb Trees: This may trigger a predatory response in the bear. Bears run fast, are excellent climbers and swimmers.
Fight Back: Fight back as hard as you can with black bears using stones, sticks, and your fists if you have to.
Polar Bears: If you are camping in polar bear country in northern Ontario, then you should review the strategies for bear encounters with parks staff and other officials there.