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Killarny Provincial Park: Bears and Breakfast

Updated on November 21, 2013

Killarny is one of my most favorite provincial parks in Ontario ( It is about five and a half hours north of Toronto and perhaps two hours or less, south-west from Sudbury. The small town of Killarney is right on the Georgian Bay and so the harbor is busy in the summer. If you would like to have the best Halibut fish and chips in the world: you have to go there!

I have been there many times. I have stayed there a few days, a week, even longer. There are countless things to do: fishing, hiking, canoeing. There are trails one can cover in a few hours and then, there are week-long trails through the forest … I tried that, not very successfully due to lack of experience, proper equipment, lack of a map, etc. There are also portage trails. It would be an impossibility to go to Killarney Provincial Park and not have fun.

Even after my good buddy got woken-up by a bear mother and her cubs – he is still willing to go back. This summer for sure. That bear story is pretty funny because it was just so odd, everything.

I woke-up somewhat earlier and decided to go to the main showers/washrooms area of the park. I was too lazy that morning to take clean clothes, the shampoo, all the shaving stuff and walk with them so, I took the whole car with me. It was fairly early in the morning, perhaps seven o’clock or somewhere there.

When I came out of the shower I saw my buddy sitting on a wooden bench right in front of me, with an inflatable mattress on his lap. Many thoughts crossed my mind while I was trying to make sense of what I was seeing. Did he want to go to the beach that early? It wasn’t that hot … what was he doing with that inflatable mattress and why could he not wait for me to get back? I wasn’t gone for that long …

My friend is a straight-guy, he doesn’t smoke the funny stuff; no monkey-business, unless you give him three beers – then, he can eat a moth the size of your palm for five bucks … or just dare him. That morning though, he was sleeping when I left and he didn’t look drunk so, when I asked him what in the world he was doing sitting in front of the shower in his boxers, a T-shirt and with the inflatable mattress in his lap, he had to explain to me that he got woken-up by a mother bear and her cubs.

He said he heard some sniffing around the tent and thought it was raccoons so he hit the tent from the inside with his hand to make them go away. When they did not and the sniffing continued, frustrated he popped his head out only to see to one side of the tent a bear-mother and on the other side of the tent, three cubs. At this point, I am glad I have smart friends because he might have been turned to breakfast by the mother-bear.

He calmly got out of the tent, dragging his inflatable mattress along. He was talking, not screaming, slowly moving from the tent to the side of the camp site; not running or making any sudden and/or shaky movements. The vision of a bear is not the best. A man holding a mattress sideways may look like a big blob of moving “something” to a bear. We do not smell like food and we do not sound like food, when talking. If we do not seem aggressive or hostile, bears for the most part will just go on with their business as that mother ultimately did (with her cubs).

My buddy crossed a few camp-sites where everyone was still sleeping, figuring I had not gone too far and when he saw the car by the showers he just waited for me. Now, that is good thinking on his part. I am very glad he acted appropriately and I still have him in one piece to join me on further adventures. I might have gone back to sleep if I were him and just registered the sight of bears around the camp-site as a bad dream.

Note: My Photograph, Dokis First Nations, August, 2013


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    • Mr. Happy profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr. Happy 

      7 years ago from Toronto, Canada


      Mr. Suhail I was kidding about the dog sled, kind of funny coincidence that You actually do dog sled. I only mentioned your dog because You mention it in your Avatar name and I love dogs! That was funny.

      Good luck on your adventures.

      All the best!

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      7 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Good advice!

      For this winter, I will be dog sledding near Huntsville and in Algonquin Provincial Mark in addition to Vermont in the USA. I will have some younger inexperienced sledders with me. Let us see how it works out.

    • Mr. Happy profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr. Happy 

      7 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Greetings Mr. Suhail,

      I am happy You enjoyed the read.

      In case of a bear encounter, I would encourage not to use your bear spray unless strictly necessary - if for some reason the bear is not in the cone of your spray or for some reason does not react to it as it should, You may have one angry bear to deal with. Walking away slowly, while talking loud should do the trick (unless You somehow walked too close to a den maybe ...).

      Killarny is gorgeous park, with lots of trails, beautiful camp-sites and great amenities. It's also a Winterized park as well so, You can get the sled going with your dog lol.

      Cheers! : )

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      7 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Well, I must have missed reading this informative and funny article written 2 years ago.

      I learned a lot from here. I hike with my dog, just the two of us. Sometimes, my teen-aged son and his cousins join me, but for most of the time its two of us. Running into a black bear is always on my mind. As a defensive mechanism, I only rely on a bear spray, which may fail me if I deploy it, and a trekker's heavy duty umbrella that I can open and look like a huge monster. That is about it.

      Your article actually endorses the viewpoint that we have to look bigger to discourage a bear from having second thoughts about us as food.

      Btw, Killarny is on my mind for next summer. I love Ontario and am covering its provincial parks one week at a time.

      Thanks for writing such an informative and an interesting article.

    • Mr. Happy profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr. Happy 

      9 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Thank You for taking the time to read and comment Mrs. DeborahNeyens! Indeed mama bears are not to be played with: always walk the opposite direction from one, slowly and without making any sudden gestures. No screaming either but talking with a firm and constant tone can help. Bears are not dumb and they certainly are not out there to get us. It's just that when we are in their territory - forests - we have to be a little bit more careful, even with simple things as storing our food and garbage.

      The moth story is true too ... my buddy has issues when he gets too much fire-water in him ... as we all do, I suppose. Cheers and all the best!

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 

      9 years ago from Iowa

      What a story! Your friend is lucky. I hear that a mama bear can be pretty ferocious when her babies are around. I also got a chuckle about "the moth the size of your palm."

    • Mr. Happy profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr. Happy 

      10 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Well, it is not often that I write a story and the protagonist comes to comment on it. Happy you're alive to even comment Mr. President! And I think this newer nickname is here to stay, Mr. President. (rofl)

      That's so awesome, that you stopped by to comment! Cheers, Amigo!

    • profile image

      Mr. President  

      10 years ago

      Excuse me but that would take at least 4 beer before I start eating moths LOL . Enjoying the great outdoors is fantastic way to relax and get away from the “rat race” of the big cities. The pace is slower, the air is breathable, and you aren’t stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. When camping you have to remember that you’re now sharing your environment with more than just people. There are lots of bugs, birds and animals living there. You are visiting their home. There are no garbage men to pick up after you in the wilderness. You should treat it with respect and courtesy. When camping in Ontario you have to understand that there are mosquitoes and black flies. They are a nuisance. However if you protect yourself properly (with bug spray & cover up) they won’t bother you a bit. The same goes with the Black Bears. You just need to avoid them. The saying is true “they are more scared of you than you are of them”. You have to be smart. When hiking through the woods you want to make noise so you don’t accidently sneak up on a bear when you turn the corner of a path. Wearing bells is a good idea so at least the bear hears you coming. Also when you come face to face with a Black Bear, don’t panic, don’t run. Try and figure out which way the bear is was headed. Turn and WALK in the opposite direction of the bear. Never put yourself in a position where you are between a mother bear and her cubs. If the bear comes towards you try and find an item to keep between you and a the bear. A large branch, picnic table, chair, tent, a nap sac, even an inflatable mattress. Anything that looks big. Something that can protect you from a claw of a bear. If all else fails and the bear does attack you, you need to fight back (with a black bear) only the grizzly bear should you play dead. Really you should not fear the bear. You have a better chance of getting hit by lightning than being attached by a bear. Just don’t provoke it and you should be fine! There is no reason animals and people can’t enjoy Ontario’s great outdoors together.

    • gg.zaino profile image

      greg g zaino 

      10 years ago from L'America- Big Pine Key, Florida

      Hey Happy- The woman and i may make Canada part of our road trip this summer- I've only been through Canada but twice, and that was taking the shortcut to get to the lower peninsula in Michigan. Didn't have time to explore.

      there's nothing like the great outdoors, and isn't that the truth. Momma bear was having a chuckle on moth man- i've known a couple like him.

      I'll be sure to Google map Kilarney.

      good job my friend

      peace- greg

    • Eiddwen profile image


      10 years ago from Wales

      I cannot say that I have ever come across bears but I love anything to do with animals/nature etc so this one was a treat for me and I vote up all the way.

      Take care


    • Mr. Happy profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr. Happy 

      10 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Mr. Diougenes, I did indeed forget to mention that those were black bears. In Ontario, as Mrs. Lynda correctly mentioned on my other blog ("May is my month"), here in Ontario we do not have grizzly bears. We have black, brown and if you go far enough north you might find a polar bear or two but I am not sure if you'd still be in Ontario by then. It might become Nunavut where the polar bears hang-out.

      I will have to look into that book - thanks for the title!

      Black bears seem very common here in Ontario Mrs. Lynda. Close to Killarney, I saw one hanging-out on the side of the road during the day ... they do not care much about us though and I have no problem with them.

      I certainly have never met an angry injured bear or anything of that sort - that might turn-out into a different story. Thank you for your time and comment. All the best!

    • lmmartin profile image


      10 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      I'm had encounters with black bears often in my camping days in Manitoba,Northern Ontario and Alberta and unless it's a mother with cubs, or a very hungry injured bear, they are unlikely to be aggressive. Still a bit of a shock to wake up to them -- for sure. Good story. Lynda

    • diogenes profile image


      10 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Good job he hadn't had a few beers, he might have been barbecueing a cub when you got back.

      You didn't say unless I missed it, were they black bears? Surely not grizzlies?

      I have never seen a bear in the wild; had that been me in the tent, I'm sure i'd still be heading rapidly south!

      Good story Bob

      PS By the way, have you read Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods" with his friend, Katz. Your experience reminded me of this great story.


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