Wildlife-Human Interactions in Manitoba

Manitobans coexist with an abundance of wildlife.  This provides opportunities for both positive and negative interactions between people and wildlife.  Positive interactions include the many wildlife viewing, photography, hunting and trapping opportunities that are available in Manitoba. Negative interactions (conflicts) can include threats to the safety and health of people, pets, livestock and wildlife; damage to property such as agricultural products, buildings, vehicles and infrastructure; and negative effects on wildlife populations, individual animals, habitat, and the wildlife-acceptance capacity of the public.

Wherever people may be living, working or pursuing recreational activities, they may interact with wildlife. Wild animals are found throughout Manitoba, which means that interactions can occur in urban, rural, or wilderness areas of the province. However, the risk of a dangerous encounter with wildlife generally increases with the distance from urban development and human activity.

If you encounter wild animals, always treat them with caution and respect. Learn to recognize the signs of wildlife presence and/or damage, and understand what actions you can take to reduce risks for people, property and wildlife.

Wlidlife Smart

Manitobans and visitors to the province are encouraged to be Wildlife Smart.  Wildlife Smart means understanding why we have conflicts with wildlife, taking action to reduce the risk of conflicts, and knowing how to respond appropriately when interacting with wildlife.

Why do we have conflicts?

There will always be some level of conflict between people and wildlife because humans share land, air and water resources with other species.  However, there are three major factors that can significantly increase the risk of wildlife-human conflict by bringing people and wildlife into closer physical proximity to one another.  These factors are:

  • Attractants: Attractants include things that wild animals may consider to be potential food, cover, or water sources. Wildlife may be drawn into an area of human development/activity due to the presence of attractants. 
  • Habituation: A habituated animal has learned through repeated positive or neutral encounters with people that there is little reason to fear people.  These animals grow tolerant to people being in closer proximity to them, and don’t avoid people like normal wild animals. 
  • Food-conditioning: Wild animals become food-conditioned when they are attracted to human foods or garbage because previous food rewards have given them positive reinforcement for this behaviour.  These animals may actively seek out human foods.

People can take action to reduce attractants, habituation and food-conditioning and thereby reduce the risk of conflicts with wildlife.

What actions can people take to reduce the risk of conflict?

Wildlife Smart actions to reduce the risk of wildlife conflict primarily involve securing attractants, preventing wildlife from being surprised at close range, or becoming habituated or food-conditioned, as well as increasing knowledge and awareness about coexisting with wildlife.  Here are some general Wildlife Smart tips:

  • Be aware that wild animals are found throughout Manitoba, and a dangerous encounter can happen both near and far from human development and human activity.
  • Be aware that any wild animal may attack if it senses a threat to itself, its young, or its food source; predatory animals may consider a person, pet, or livestock to be prey.
  • Never feed or approach a wild animal; be aware that Manitoba regulations prohibit the feeding of wildlife along provincial roads and highways, and in other specified areas of the province.
  • When walking, be aware of your surroundings, watch for signs that wild animals may be nearby, and carry deterrents such as a walking stick and noise-maker.
  • Teach children how to recognize wildlife and how to respond appropriately in an encounter.
  • In wilderness or other high-risk areas, hike in a group, make noise, carry bear deterrent spray where it’s easily accessible and know how to use it.
  • Keep pets on a leash and under control; bring pets indoors at night, and don’t leave them outside unattended during the daytime.
  • Vaccinate pets and frequently clean up pet waste from your yard.
  • Secure all attractants so that wild animals can’t access human food, garbage, pet/livestock food, or composted food scraps.
  • Feeding birds can attract a wide variety of wildlife.  During the summer, use a birdbath to attract birds.  In winter (December to March), it is recommended that feeders should not hang below two metres, and that any spilled seed be cleaned up frequently.
  • Thoroughly clean barbecues after every use; don’t forget the grease trap.
  • Remove all fruit from your yard as it ripens.
  • Reduce cover and denning opportunities in your yard by removing any debris piles, trimming overgrown areas, removing tree branches overhanging your house, and sealing entry to your attic, chimney and underneath your shed and deck. 
  • Cover sandboxes when they’re not in use.

If you encounter wildlife that you believe could pose a risk to your safety:

  • Stop, remain calm and assess the situation.
  • If you are near a building or vehicle, get inside.
  • Pick up small children or pets; sudden movement or noise from them may attract the attention of the wild animal.
  • If you have a backpack on, keep it on; if you are attacked it may help to protect you.
  • If the animal is in a tree, leave it alone and leave the area; when it feels safe it will climb down.
  • Ensure the animal has an escape route; if you have cornered an animal, slowly move so that it is able to leave.
  • Never run, as this may provoke a chase and an attack.

If the wildlife is unaware of you:

  • Move away quietly when the animal is not looking toward you. 
  • Keep your eye on the animal as you leave in case its behaviour changes, but do not make direct eye contact.
  • Do not crouch down.

If the wildlife is aware of you:

  • Respond appropriately based on the animal species and its behaviour.