Northwestern Ontario residents are reminded that now is the time of the year that additional black bear sightings will be reported, and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is offering a number of tips to keep you and your properties safe.

A black bear was pictured wandering around the Minto area of Kenora on September 8.

The MNRF says to help avoid bear encounters in your neighbourhood, follow these Bear Wise tips:

- put garbage out only on the morning of garbage day, not the night before
- put meat scraps in the freezer until garbage day
- put garbage in containers that have tight-fitting lids and store it in a bear-proof location such as your basement or a sturdy garage
- frequently wash garbage cans and recycle containers and lids with a strong-smelling disinfectant, such as bleach
- take garbage to the dump often, if you do not have curbside pick-up

- fill bird feeders only through the winter months
- put away feeders in the spring and instead, offer birds natural alternatives (for example, flowers, nesting boxes and fresh water)

burn off food residue and wash the grill right away
- empty the grease trap every time you barbecue
- remove all utensils, dishes and food after eating
- be aware that cooking odours can attract bears

pick all ripe and fallen fruit from trees and shrubs on your property
- plant non-fruit-bearing trees and shrubs

do not leave pet food outdoors, in screened-in areas or porches

leash your dog(s) when walking through communities or out in bear country
- unleashed dogs may instigate a chase response that may lead the bear back to you
- check your yards for the presence of a black bear before letting your dogs out

The Ministry reminds the public that attacks by black bears are extremely rare as they are generally shy and will avoid people, but if a bear poses a threat to public safety by exhibiting threatening or aggressive behaviour, the public should call 911 immediately.

Aggressive behaviour includes entering a schoolyard when school is in session, stalking people and lingering at a site, attempting to enter a residence, or when a bear wanders into a public gathering.

For non-emergencies, the province operates a toll-free Bear Wise reporting line at 1-866-514-2327. The line is open 24/7 between April 1 and November 30.

Non-emergency situations include if a bear is roaming around or checking garbage cans, is in a tree, pulls down a bird feeder or a barbecue or is simply moving through your backyard.