Do Black Bears Swim?

On a recent day trip to Grand Lake in eastern Algonquin Park, Bob and Diana encountered two black bears -- Ursus americanus -- swimming across the lake.

2009 September 02

Do black bears swim? Of course they do. However, the real question for many canoe campers is: "Does an island campsite provide protection against scavenging bears?". And the answer is: "not really". Bears are good swimmers and routinely swim to get where they want to go. And they are not safety conscious. We once encountered a bear swimming across the Petawawa River immediately above the falls where the river drops into Cedar lake.

On a recent day trip to Grand Lake in Algonquin Park, we encountered two bears swimming across the lake. The first bear started from the north shore in the vicinity of Rowan Creek, and swam across to the south shore. The lake is narrow there but is still several hundred metres wide.

black bear swimming across Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

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To set the scale -- the bear is that small black speck in the water near the shore, just to the left of centre (below the two birch trees).

black bear swimming across Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

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A little closer.

black bear swimming across Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

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The bear is not pleased with our presence.

black bear swimming across Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

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We encountered the second bear about 40 minutes later, a couple of kilometers farther up the lake, most of the way to the old railway bridge. Conceivably it was the same bear, since it started swimming from the south shore, but we thought that seemed unlikely. On the other hand, encountering two separate bears swimming across the lake less than an hour apart seems unlikely as well!

black bear swimming across Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

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The second bear.

black bear swimming across Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

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After seeing us and realizing our intention was to photograph him, the bear turned around and headed back to shore.

black bear swimming across Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

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black bear swimming across Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

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Sleek wet coat.

Camping on an island would not have provided much protection from these bears! (Although neither of them seemed eager to make our aquaintance.)

(All of these photos were taken by Diana with her small point-and-shoot camera (Canon sd450). Bob had his big telephoto lens with him but unfortunately he had neglected to bring the camera body.)

2009 September 02

Here's another photo of a black bear swimming. In this case, the bear is in Cartier Lake in the Petawawa Research Forest, just outside the eastern boundary of Algonquin Park. It was swimming from a small island to the shore, about 500m distant.

Black bear swimming in Cartier Lake in the Petawawa Research forest

(photo by Bob: 2014-06-09 - explore

Black bear swimming in Cartier Lake in the Petawawa Research Forest.