By Sébastien Lacroix, journalist
Attacks by wild animals are rare in Quebec, but campers should still be careful when out in their natural habitat.
The Quebec department of forests, wildlife and parks (MFFP) doesn’t keep official statistics on such attacks, but has reported two cases since the beginning of 2017, when moose charged people in the Quebec City region.
“Those are the only two cases we know of. But not all human encounters with wild animals are reported to us,” emphasizes MFFP spokesman Nicolas Bégin. “No one region is worse than another, except that you’re more likely to run into a wild animal in a rural area than in an urban setting.”
Generally speaking, animals aren’t really interested in getting close to humans, unless it’s to look for food in garbage near a campground. That’s where you’re most likely to see racoons, squirrels and bears, which are all attracted by the smell of food.
That’s why Parks Canada insists on the concept of a “bare campsite,” meaning never leaving items that could attract wildlife unattended. People who don’t follow this rule can have their camping permits cancelled and may even be charged under the Canada National Parks Act.
Full or empty coolers, food in open or closed containers, garbage and wrapping, dishes and pots and utensils, pet food or bowls, bottles and cans, and all scented products such as shampoo, toothpaste, candles, citronella and dish soap should never be left unattended.
You should never feed wild animals, either. They can develop bad habits and may have to be put down.
If ever you venture into nature to observe wild animals in their natural habitat, stay alert at all times. It’s best to keep your distance, too – at least 30 metres and up to 100 metres for potentially aggressive animals like bears.
What should you do if you encounter a wild animal? “There’s no perfect formula. But if you make some noise, often that will be enough to frighten it off. Simply back away calmly, watching it at all times. Never turn your back, since then you won’t know what the animal is doing,” says Bégin.Much the same applies to dogs, which are more and more common in Quebec campgrounds. Stay calm and don’t run away, as that can incite the dog to attack. Remain friendly, don’t raise your voice, and don’t stare it in the eye, as that can be considered provocative. Let it smell you, don’t make any sudden movements, stay still or back away slowly if you meet an aggressive dog.