Trip Reports

Encounter with a Bear on French River Trip

Encounter with a Bear on French River Trip

I was asked to put together a few notes regarding an unusual situation that occurred during a club French River Provincial Park canoe trip that took place from August 29- September 4 this year.

On our only night camping at the Obstacle Island campsite, a large bear (estimated 400 lbs) came into our campsite about 9:00 pm and bit onto a 60 liter full food barrel which was on the ground and proceeded to walk away with it. The barrel was about 15 feet from the campfire that four of us were sitting around while chatting (two people had gone to sleep already in tents). It dropped the barrel after being yelled at and it ran off a short distance. Myself & a fellow camper retrieved the barrel and took it back to our site. When we shone our headlamps into the woods, the bear peered back at us; obviously it was not afraid, which didn't bode well for the rest of the night. It was a big surprise to see this bear as we kept a very clean site, all barrels were sealed and all our meals were dehydrated therefore low food odour.

All of our tents were set up with quite a distance between us all; some on rocky points, others off in the woods. We decided it would be wise for all of us to camp close together near the shoreline, and so we moved our tents into close proximity. 

After we hung the barrels and other food bags in a tree, the bear came back about 11 pm when we were in our tents. We heard something loudly bang the canoe stored near the barrels. The bear likely fell/slipped on the canoe trying to reach barrels thus putting a crack on both sides of the hull (which we didn’t discover until later). As we watched, it climbed the tree that had barrels, ripped one nylon bag & chewed up a Nalgene bottle with oatmeal inside. It tried to swat at various barrels but couldn't reach them. It did rip one strap off someone's small barrel.

It wasn't concerned at all with us yelling, making noises with an air horn, banging pots/pans & whistles and waving paddles when it came back a second time. We stayed grouped together when making noises which was a good idea as it made us look larger. The bear was solely food focused and was not interested in us at all. Eventually, it wandered off after about 10-15 min & didn't come back. Most people didn't sleep well after that for some reason!

We left the next day about 8:30 AM and we ran into fishermen who were talking to two young women who were on the same site as us the night before we arrived. They had lost all their food to a bear.

Another point to mention pertaining to our initial exploration of the site and island:  I had found a soft sided canoe pack with what looked like garbage strewn about that was off in the woods, somewhat near the campsite. It looked like someone had left it there and it appeared to me initially that it was a lazy camper who had just dumped garbage several months ago. Someone else in our group, when looking for firewood, came across some destroyed packs in a far-off corner of the island. We later put two and two together and believe the destroyed packs in the far-off corner of the island were owned by the 2 girls camping on site the day before us.

Also, just to note, that the thunderbox was turned on its side. Someone remarked that likely a bear had done that when seeking some food remnants.