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Canmore residents urged to manage wildlife attractants

CANMORE – Opportunistic bears in Canmore’s developed areas, including a cub that climbed onto a residential deck, have provincial wildlife officials worried for the safety of people and fate of the animals.
Wildsmart’s Wildlife Ambassador liaison Tyler McClaron demonstrates how to properly use bear spray. Wildsmart is currently recruiting for volunteers to fill the ambassador
A Bow Valley Wildsmart wildlife ambassador demonstrates how to properly deploy bear spray. In Canmore, 285 bear spray surveys done recently at 10 locations in Canmore and Kananaskis Country last summer showed that 56 per cent used bear spray, while 44 per cent did not.

CANMORE – Opportunistic bears in Canmore’s developed areas, including a cub that climbed onto a residential deck, have provincial wildlife officials worried for the safety of people and fate of the animals.

Wanting to avoid the outcome that befell famous grizzly bear No. 148 when she was shipped out of town in 2017 and subsequently killed by a hunter in B.C., as well as the death of a food-conditioned black bear in Canmore last month, Alberta Environment and Parks is urging people to do everything possible to keep their properties free of attractants and to carry bear spray on hiking and biking trails.

“It’s really problematic because there’s a bunch of bears in town right now and people are getting really close to them,” said Jay Honeyman, a human-wildlife conflict specialist with Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP).

“They’re really just feeding on green grass, but if there is something in the backyards behind the green grass, they’re going to take it if you provide it to them,” he added, referring to garbage, bird seed and fruit trees.

There are reports of a female black bear and her yearling cubs hanging out in Three Sisters and Stewart Creek areas, while another black bear with young-of-year cubs is regularly seen in the Quarry Lake, Grassi Lakes, Rundleview neighbourhood and Nordic Centre areas.

An official bear warning was put in place on Monday (June 3) for the black bear with the young-of-year cubs in the Grassi Lakes day use area, trail and surrounding area. It’s in place until further notice.

“This sow and her two cubs from this year are being surrounded at very close distance; there’s road jams happening regularly and people are getting too close and taking pictures,” said Honeyman.

“The reality is that the longer they are allowed to be exposed to people like that, the harder it’s going to be to get them to move out of town, frankly.”

Honeyman said one of the young-of-year cubs went onto a deck in the Rundleview neighbourhood last week.

“They are just learning, but that’s a slippery slope and that just can’t happen,” he said, adding the outcome is seldom positive for the bear if this happens with any regularity.

The Bow Valley human-wildlife coexistence round table came up with 28 recommendations focused on reducing the probability and severity of negative wildlife encounters.

Key recommendations included removing attractants, such as feral rabbits and fruit trees from areas where wildlife are not wanted and creating a degree of separation of wildlife from public areas.

The Town of Canmore set aside funding to build a fence around Centennial Park in a bid to keep elk out of an area where middle school children play. Depending on its success, fencing may be considered for other schoolyards and municipal parks in future.

Lori Rissling Wynn, sustainability coordinator and development planner for the Town of Canmore, said the municipality is working with ISL on the fence design and construction is tentatively scheduled to begin in early September after all summer events are over.

“Through the design process, we’ll also know get a more detailed price for the fence, and then will have a better idea of monies available to look at additional attractant-fruit tree removal,” she said.

Mayor John Borrowman said that’s a good start, but there’s more work to be done.

He said the death of a food-conditioned black bear in the Peaks of Grassi neighbourhood last month sparked more discussion, which he plans to bring to the council table at a future meeting.

“I want to have that conversation at council, especially in regards to our wildlife attractant bylaw and whether or not we should have other terms or beef up the bylaw in some way, or simply redirect enforcement to be responsive to the bylaw,” he said.

“We are struggling right now with being somewhat understaffed in bylaw to be honest, and so if resources are directed to that area of concern, then they have to come off something else.”

The black bear Borrowman referred to was a medium-sized male bruin that was killed by Fish and Wildlife officers earlier this spring for public safety reasons, after it reportedly ate birdseed on residents’ decks and entered a garage where it accessed a chest freezer.

It was the same bear that was relocated about 40 kilometres away last August. It was originally attracted to the area due to natural food sources such as buffaloberries and fruit trees, but grew more brazen and accustomed to human food over several days spent in the Peaks neighbourhood.

Borrowman said no one wants to see a repeat of this incident over summer and into fall.

“It’s getting a little frustrating. We’ve got to do better,” he said, adding that’s especially valid since Canmore boasts about being a WildSmart community.


A big concern for provincial wildlife managers is the number of people still not carrying bear spray.

According to an AEP, 285 bear spray surveys done at 10 locations in Canmore and Kananaskis Country last summer showed that 56 per cent used bear spray, while 44 per cent did not.

“With all the talk, talk, talk about bear spray, is that good or bad? People can decide for themselves whether they think that’s good or not,” said Honeyman.

Honeyman said bear spay use was highest amongst Albertans at 60 per cent, with international tourists the lowest at almost 27 per cent.

“Alberta was certainly the highest and those were Canmorites and Calgarians,” he said. “That’s encouraging, I guess.”

Top reasons given for not carrying bear spray included people weren’t aware they needed it, forgot it, and didn’t believe they needed it because there were other people on the trail.

Honeyman said one of the most alarming statistics was that 60 per cent of people did not carry bear spray on the Grassi Lakes trail, which had a posted bear warning and sign at the trailhead for most of the summer.

Most surveyed hikers indicated they weren’t aware they needed bear spray, but Honeyman said: “Well, there’s a bear sign over there.”

“This, to me, was completely unacceptable and it was a pretty mixed bag between locals and out-of-towners,” he said. “Grassi Lakes is a very popular spot and we were getting sightings of bears almost daily up there.”

Honeyman said it might be time to reevaluate how the message about bear safety and how to behave in bear country is given to the public.

“It brings into discussion the whole way we’re doing business, and whether we’re being as effective as we think we are,” he said.

Please report all bear sightings immediately to 403-591-7755.

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