BOW VALLEY – Bears feasting on berries have prompted several warnings or closures in the Bow Valley and Kananaskis Country.
Bear sightings in the Bow Valley have been steady throughout the last week, and in addition to eating buffaloberries, bears are feasting on dogwood berries.
Alberta Parks has issued several new warnings and closures to give these bears the space they need to feed undisturbed.
“Trail users need to be vigilant if they are seeing berries as there is a high probability of a bear in close proximity focused on feeding,” according to Bow Valley WildSmart.
Effective Sunday (Aug. 21), the Flowing Waters interpretive trail in Bow Valley Provincial Park is closed until further notice because black bears are feeding on berries in the area over the previous couple of days.
There were also bear warnings at Willow Rock campground, Mount Lorette Ponds day-use area and Three Sisters Campground put in place over the weekend due to bear activity.
In addition, a warning is in place as of Aug. 19 for Sundance Lodges in Evan-Thomas Provincial Recreation Area.
“A black bear got into food and garbage that was left out overnight,” according to an Alberta Parks notice.
“The bear also approached a second site and ate dog food.”
Buffaloberries are a critical calorie-rich food source for bears, and they’ll eat up to 200,000 berries a day.
Bears have their heads down and are focused on eating berries, which increases the chance of surprise encounters.
In Banff, Yoho and Kootenay national parks, a blanket warning remains in place for berry season.
Over the past decade, the federal agency has set up plots to monitor buffalo-berry production each year.
Parks Canada officials say the berry crop is generally fair to poor this year, but it varies across the park.
“Last year was the worst on record since we started our new monitoring approach, and the year before that was the best on record,” said David Laskin, an ecologist with Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay field unit.
Laskin said the heat dome last year – in which the Bow Valley and Banff National Park experienced record temperatures – has likely played a part in this year’s poor to fair buffaloberry production.
“It looks patchy, but there are some spots where the berries look pretty good, and I think the bears were honing in on those,” he said.
“When the crop is poor, bears are on the lookout for other food sources and they will take advantage of unsecured food sources, so it’s important to be extra vigilant.”
Residents and visitors are reminded to make plenty of noise and travel in groups, look and listen for bears and their signs, keep dogs on a leash, and carry bear spray.