Skip to content

Black bear bluff charge prompts warning for Kananaskis trail

Warning in effect at High Rockies Trail between Goat Pond Dam and Spray Lakes West Campground.

KANANASKIS – A bear warning is in place for a portion of High Rockies Trail in Kananaskis Country due to a black bear bluff charge.

An Alberta Parks notice states the warning is in place for the trail between Goat Pond Dam and Spray Lakes West Campground effective Monday (July 8). 

A bear warning is also in effect for the campground, which opened for the Canada Day long weekend and closed again for construction. Last weekend, a black bear was shot and killed by provincial wildlife officers at the site after it tried to access food from campers and for exhibiting food-conditioned behaviour.

A grizzly bear bluff charge has also closed the area of Sparrows Egg Lake in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park as of July 7, until further notice. 

Nick de Ruyter, WildSmart program director for Biosphere Institute of the Bow Valley, said bluff charges typically occur in defensive encounters.

“When you surprise a bear, the bear is protecting a food source or a mother bear is protecting her cubs, it might bluff charge,” he said. 

“It’s that warning to stay away. You’re getting too close.”

In the event of a bluff charge or another encounter with a bear on a trail, it is best to turn around and go somewhere else, De Ruyter suggested.

He said he often gets asked what to do if a bear is in the way of getting to a trailhead parking lot or other return destination. 

“That’s a legit question and in those cases, I would say if there’s another way around, consider looking for an alternate route, or you might just have to wait it out and have your bear spray ready.”

Every scenario is different, he noted, and if a bear is protecting a food source such as a carcass, the bear is likely not going to move. 

“What we don’t want people to do is just try and sneak past bears on the trail. We see people trying to do that in Canmore trying to sneak past elk, especially during the rut and elk calving season, and that normally doesn’t go very well or successfully, so don’t try and chance it.”

At this time of year, de Ruyter said bears are typically in valley bottoms to feed where vegetation has greened up in clearings along trails, roadways, train tracks, picnicking areas and campgrounds. 

Buffaloberries – one of the major items on a bear’s menu – are also starting to ripen and will likely be ready within the next week or two, said de Ruyter. 

“Those first ones to ripen will also be the ones in the valley bottoms, again, in those open areas,” he said.

Visitors are reminded to always have bear spray accessible while in bear country and to know how to use it, travel in groups and make lots of noise on trails, look for signs of bears and keep pets on leash. 

“Keep children close by, be aware of your surroundings, look for tracks and scat, and if you see a fresh pile of scat, consider turning around or pulling out your bear spray or making even more noise, because there’s likely a bear in the area,” said de Ruyter.

It’s important to also be aware of wildlife warnings and closures. 

“There are a lot of warnings out there right now in K-Country and some of the national parks. Those are there for your safety and the key is to give wildlife space, so obey closures and stay out of closed areas,” said de Ruyter.

“If there’s a warning in place, maybe because there was a bluff charge, like the one on the High Rockies Trail, consider recreating elsewhere. Is that the best place to go that day? Probably not. So, have a plan B and C and go somewhere else.”

The Outlook reached out to Alberta Parks for more information regarding recent incidents and will update this story if further details become available. 

For more information on bear safety and advisories, visit:

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks