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Beware of bears out there, biologist warns at show

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HEADS up -- the bears are starting to awaken.

And we can all agree cottage country is more enjoyable if you don't get eaten.

"We try to teach people to understand bear behaviour," Dean Berezanski said Sunday, as he staffed one of the most popular booths at the annual Cottage Country show at the Red River Ex grounds.

When you have a bear skull on display, you tend to attract crowds.

The bears had their young in their bear dens last month, said Berezanski, a provincial fur-bearer biologist with Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship.

"March, April, you'll see them coming around," he said.

The cottage show was mostly about decks, docks, sunrooms, hot tubs the size of some hotel swimming pools, wood furniture and nifty fishing boats.

The provincial government was there too, not just with Bear Smart messages, but also photos of bugs that could destroy trees if you make the mistake of transporting firewood, especially from the United States.

Beware the emerald ash borer and the Asian long-horned beetle.

Berezanski was interested mainly in sharing information on furry wilderness creatures, especially those with big teeth and long claws, who figure it's their home, not yours.

"The general public is at risk if they perceive bears as cartoon or Disney characters," he said.

"Educate yourself, learn to assess all situations," Berezanski said. "Is it far away, is it close? Does it see you, does it not see you?

"Dogs can be at risk around bears, and they can escalate things."

The Conservation Deparmtent has resources for schoolkids and all kinds of stuff at www.manitoba.ca/blackbear.

"We've only had three fatalities from bear attacks in Manitoba since 1900," Berezanski said.

The Whiteshell Cottagers Association at the show promised big changes this year, the kind that might not get noticed in the city but are significant news in cottage country.

Brace yourself for change, West Hawk, said WCA president Tom walker -- the work begun last year is almost finished.

For a long time, he said, "people scrambled with cars. (Now) there's sidewalks. It's separated from the cars now."

There are new paved parking lots as well, some with extra-long spaces for vehicles pulling trailers.

"The road in the village hadn't been upgraded since 1958," Walker said.

There's a new cottagers' website with oodles of local news, at whiteshellcottagers.com.

"We got some good comments on the website," Walker said. "They were happy there's a website, to see what's happening in the park."

High on the agenda, said Walker, is persuading Ontario to bring the Trans-Canada Trail to the border so it connects with the South Whiteshell Trail.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 11, 2013 B1

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