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This article was published 3/8/2018 (497 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The black bear who bit a hiker last month remains at large, the province said Friday while announcing it has reopened the Mantario Trail in Whiteshell Provincial Park in time for the long weekend.
The north section of the trail, from the Big Whiteshell Trail Head to Mantario Lake, is open to the public after a month-long closure due to a bear attack on the trail July 2.
A couple was hiking the trail, when a bear snuck up behind them and bit the man's leg. Ryan Potter previously told the Free Press he took out his bear spray and scared the animal off, while he and his wife "high-tailed it" in the other direction.
"To date, attempts to capture the bear have not been successful, and this bear may still be in the area," the province warned in a news release Friday.
The trail was reopened after department staff felt comfortable about the amount of time that has passed since the incident, and there have not been any further bear reports from the area, government spokesman John Neufeld said in a message to the Free Press.
Despite the trail being closed, people travel through the area numerous times a day, he said.
"The bear trapping effort is expected to end shortly," Neufeld said, adding signage has been placed at the trailhead to remind the public to be aware of the animals.
Outdoor enthusiasts should be sure to clean up after themselves, keep bear spray on hand, and always assume bears are in the vicinity, even if no recent conflicts or encounters have been reported, the release from the province advises.
Avid hiker Daniel Dacombe said Friday he suspects campers carelessly leaving food around are behind a heavier presence of aggressive bears in Manitoba this year.
The Hanover resident said he's hiked the Mantario Trail a half-dozen times over the years. The trail extends 60 kilometres between the south trailhead off Provincial Road 312 and the north trailhead on the north shore of Big Whiteshell Lake.
While Dacombe said he's never encountered an aggressive bear, only seeing bears in the distance, he once came across a note scribbled into a picnic table at Ritchey Lake — near where the Potters were hiking — warning of an aggressive animal.
Dacombe said he planned to return to the trail over Labour Day weekend, bringing his wife along for the first time, but he's hesitant — despite the province giving the OK — because the aggressive bear could still be roaming the area.
"The trail's right through the Canadian Shield, it's very technical. You have to stop and use your map a lot and do lots of up and down. When you're up there, you see these lakes down below, and you see these rivers stretching off into the distance and the trees that go for miles. You can take pictures, but pictures just don't do it justice," he said.
"There's nothing quite like being out there and so, that kind of makes it worth the risk."
However, he said, the recent bear attack has made him think twice about plans. "It's giving me some pause. I think I'd like to wait a little bit and see what happens."
If they do decide to go, Dacombe said he'll be sure to pack the essentials: hiking boots, water-filtration system — and bear spray.
Otherwise known as bear deterrent, it is a long-distance spray that allows a user to defend against a bear from as far as nine metres away, said Kim Titchener, the founder of Canmore, Alta.,-based Bear Safety and More.
"It engulfs (a bear) in the spray and goes into their mucous membranes and causes an inflammatory reaction: it causes involuntary eye closure, a burning sensation to the skin, coughing, gagging," she said.
"They go from wanting to attack you or defend themselves to basically self-preservation. They're in a lot of pain."
The spray has a lasting affect for 10 to 30 minutes, allowing people to get away from the animal, Titchener said, adding that research has shown it's a highly-effective product.
"It's much more effective than a gun, and it means that people, instead of having to play dead in a bear attack and either get severe injuries or killed... this is another option to save the life of a human — and also the life of the bear," Titchener said.
Although provincial conservation officers haven't caught the bear involved in the July 2 attack, Neufeld told the Free Press they are attempting to confirm DNA of two bears recently removed from Whiteshell Provincial Park to determine if either was involved in a July incident at South Cross Lake, when a bear swiped at an eight-year-old girl.
Maggie is a cub reporter who covers every beat in the newsroom. She appreciates alliteration, when newspaper ink stains her fingertips and, more importantly, tips on social and environmental equity issues.