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Now that spring seems to be in full swing, bears and other wildlife have been spotted in areas surrounding rural southeastern Manitoba communities.

Conservation human-wildlife conflict management biologist Janine Stewart says bears tend to be active between April and November in Manitoba and it's recommended people prevent any encounters with bears by following a few safety tips.

"That involves things like securing and removing attractants, making sure the people are never approaching or attempting to feed a bear or any other wild animal. Making sure they are aware of their surroundings, watching for signs that there might be animals active in the area, and basically practicing prevention techniques."

Stewart says when walking or hiking in the country, make sure dogs are kept on a leash to prevent attracting a wild animal, and also bring noise makers - such as a whistle, air horn, or rattler - to make your presence in the area known. She notes wild animals tend to want to avoid people and if they hear you coming, they will leave the area before you arrive.

She adds, "also securing attractants. Bears, in particular, have an amazing sense of smell so, anything that smells interesting to them, which may potentially be a food source for them, would attract them to the area. Make sure yard sights are kept clear of human food. Make sure you're cleaning your barbecues when you're done using them, and if you have pets, feed them indoors."

Stewart says picking fruit off trees as it ripens instead of letting it fall to the ground, and putting away the bird feeder from April to November will also help prevent any unwanted guests.

"Don't wear earphones if you're walking in rural or remote areas because there are so many potential hazards," adds Stewart. "Watch for signs that animals are active in the area. That might be animal tracks or animal droppings. For bears, you would want to watch for signs that ant hills have been disturbed or logs have been turned over as they search for insects."

She encourages people to teach their children from a young age about how to interact appropriately with wildlife and to stress the importance of not approaching or feeding wild animals.

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