Sudbury police set up ‘triage’ system to prioritize most urgent bear calls

Bear sightings are so common in Sudbury, the police are now implementing a triage system to prioritize calls.

The new approach, which will take 911 callers through a series of questions to determine whether or not the situation is dangerous, is meant to direct resources to the most urgent calls. Greater Sudbury Police inspector John Somerset told CBC News that a trapped or injured bear, or one that’s acting aggressively, would be considered high risk. One rummaging through a composter, however, would be less so.

Although Somerset says it’s understandable that people call 911 when they see a bear wandering around town, it’s not always an emergency, and with the overwhelming number of sightings in the area, it can really tie up resources.

The Greater Sudbury Police received more than 1,700 calls about bear sightings last year, on top of the 2,400 reports the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry received to its Bear Wise reporting line. As of last week’s report, the region’s police have received 66 calls for nuisance bears this season, and it’s only just begun.

Although people do still use the ministry’s hotline, Somerset thinks that some feel safer calling the police, and says that’s understandable. Especially when they’re what he deems “critical” situations, which includes a bear entering a school yard, trying to enter a house, attacking a pet, or stalking a person.

The triage system will allow the dispatcher to determine the severity of the situation. But the real key to keeping complaints to a minimum, Somerset says, is stopping them at the source.

Food, compost, and garbage are the main reason so many bears are drawn into town, which is why the city implemented a bylaw earlier this spring, requiring residents to keep their garbage locked away until the morning of pick up.

“People need to see what’s attracting bears to their areas…and manage the attractants.”

Featured photo credit: Christopher MacDonald