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There's been 119 bear calls to police this year: report

Wildlife management not core responsibility, public safety is, says chief
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Asking for a report on bear calls in Timmins has led to action from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, according to Mayor George Pirie.

A report from Timmins Police Chief John Gauthier updated council on the history of bear calls locally.

The report is after Coun. John Curley questioned what could be done about bears in city limits at the last council meeting.

Pirie said he's happy it was brought up “because we got some immediate action from the...MNR, which we didn’t seem to be getting before.”

So far this year, there have been 119 bear calls, according to the report. That's an increase of six calls since the last council meeting June 16. With support from MNRF bear technicians some bears have been trapped and relocated, and none have been destroyed this year.

Gauthier's report notes Timmins Police has been the first point of contact for most bear calls for many years.

"Over the past 25 years, the TPS has attempted to manage problem bears in the city of Timmins. Every spring, as bears leave their dens, sightings of bears within residential areas occur. This problem continues through the summer and fall months until bears return to hibernation. Many hours have been spent on the study of bear behaviour, creation of service agreements, training of officers and report preparation," reads the report.

A graph with the number of annual bear calls to Timmins Police dating back to 1998 shows the calls peaked in 2007 when there were 645. That's followed by 2012 when there were 579, and 2005 when there were 541. The lowest years were 2002 with 77, 2006 with 81, and 2019 with 83.

“It’s very obvious that there’s a real up and down trend. I guess it relates to the type of spring we have and whatnot,” Pirie told council.

In 2003, the report says the city and MNR launched the Timmins Community Bear Awareness Program to raise awareness in hopes of reducing the number of calls made to police.

Later that year, Ontario implemented a nuisance bear management program with a 24-hour hotline to report bear incidents. 

Since then, Timmins Police and the MNRF have signed memorandums of understanding "in an attempt to deal with nuisance bears."

"Public education is the foundation to the agreement. The TPS has been proactive in reminding homeowners on their responsibilities to not attract roaming bears onto their properties," reads the report.

It notes there is no simple solution.

"Wildlife management is not a core responsibility of any police service. However, public safety is," Gauthier wrote.

"Where there remains the potential for a negative encounter between a bear and human, the TPS will always respond, despite the impact it has on police resources. For the most part, most residents have accepted that seeing a bear is part of living in Timmins. there are some however that are genuinely fearfull and will call the police for assistance during all hours of the day."

Gauthier wasn't on the virtual council meeting when the report was talked about. Pirie said any suggestions can be brought up at the next council meeting.

Maija Hoggett

About the Author: Maija Hoggett

Maija Hoggett is an experienced journalist who covers Timmins and area
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