Over the past week there have been at least half a dozen calls to Barrhead Fish and Wildlife reporting black bear sightings in the Fort Assiniboine area.
A number of bears have been spotted getting into garbage and snacking on apples that have fallen from trees in the yards of residents.
Barrhead District Fish and Wildlife officer Derek Brendzan said it isn’t uncommon to see this behaviour in bears at this time of year. The large creatures are hunting for foods high in protein, trying to load up on fat for the winter.
If someone happens to encounter a bear, Brendzan said to back calmly out of the situation immediately. Children should notify an adult in the area. Once out of harms way, call the Barrhead Fish and Wildlife office.
When Brendzan receives a call, he takes down any information about the bear available. This includes where the bear was, what it was doing, and how many there were. From there, depending on the situation, he appropriately responds.
Unfortunately bears can often become used residential or farm areas, especially if they are frequently able to find food in those locations. Calls often come in about bears eating in berry patches near paths where people like to walk, or when a bear has raided garbage left outside. Brendzan said as humans, everyone should manage how they act in bear country.
“We can’t trap and move every bear,” he said. “It’s tough to relocate a bear when it’s used to humans. The best thing to do is manage our actions.”
Cleaning up anything that would draw in bears, such as fallen apples, is a good start to avoiding any human-bear encounters. However, improperly storing garbage and compost is what normally attracts bears and causes problems. Storing garbage inside or out of reach, like using bear resistant bins, can prevent them from returning to the area for food.
Knowing that bears are more likely to be active during dawn and dusk is helpful in avoiding an encounter, but there is always a chance of running into one.
“Whether there’s one seen today or not, we do live in bear country,” he said. “It’s always going to be a possibility.”
Brendzan said many people don’t think twice if they see a neighbours dog getting into garbage in the back alleyway, even though dog attacks are far more likely than bear attacks.
“This year we’ve had more people attacked by domesticated dogs than any wild animal. That’s cougars, wolves, bears, all combined,” said Brendzan. “There is a very low chance of being mauled by a bear.”
If you see a bear, call the Barrhead Fish and Wildlife office at 780-674-8236.
For more information about staying safe in bear country, visit the Alberta BearSmart page on www.alberta.ca.