A NDP MPP is calling on the Ont. Liberals to reinstate the 'trap and relocate' program for black bears in Ontario after several close encounters with humans in the GTA.

Black bears have been spotted this year in Aurora, Milton and Pickering. The Ministry of Natural Resources indicates that there have been nearly 700 bear occurrences and encounters this summer in Ontario.

New Democrat MPP John Vanthof said during question period last week that budget cuts are putting lives at risk and forcing people to defend themselves in an encounter with the potentially deadly animals. The only line of defence, he said, is a 1-800 number residents are expected to call if they are in danger.

The ministry halted the "trap and relocate program" in 2012.

"And for those not equipped to do so, their option is phone a friend," Vanthof said in the legislature. "Or in a life-threatening situation, call the police and then the municipalities pay the bill.”

Bears tend to migrate south when there is a bad harvest and their food source further north is depleted.

A month ago a 42-year-old man and his dog were attacked by a black bear while camping in an Ontario provincial park. While the man survived, the dog was killed. Last year in Burlington, police shot and killed a wandering bear.

Meanwhile, Vanthof said residents in Northern Ontario "feel abandoned" by the ministry and won’t even report problem bears anymore.

Natural Resources Minister David Orazietti says wildlife officers will respond in case of a bear problem.

"We are not interested in seeing anyone at risk. Public safety is paramount in these circumstances," Orazietti said.

He also noted that the government continues to operate the Bear Wise program, which aims to prevent contact between humans and bears. Orazietti also said the government has extended the fall bear hunt so that the same number of bears would be harvested annually.

The Ministry of Natural Resources recommends these tips to keep your chances of attracting a black bear to a minimum:

  • Put your garbage out on the morning of collection
  • Store garbage in containers with tight-fitting lids
  • Only keep bird feeders up during the winter
  • Clean outdoor grills and grease traps after each use

Although black bears usually avoid humans, the ministry recommends that if you do encounter a bear there are some steps you can take:

  • If the bear is not paying attention to you, slowing walk away
  • Do not approach the bear to get a better look
  • If the bear spots you, raise your arms and make yourself look big
  • Speak in a firm voice while slowly backing away
  • Drop any food you are carrying
  • Stand your ground.
  • Do not run or climb a tree. Bears can run faster and climb better than you.

To report a bear problem, citizens can call 1-866-514-2327

With report from CTV Toronto’s Paul Bliss