Bears are everywhere, but do we have the staff to manage them and us?
It seems like there are bears everywhere around Canmore these days. From the Nordic Centre, through town, to Cougar Creek and Silvertip. Bears are searching for snow-free habitat and they’re finding it in our neighbourhoods and local town pathways.
As residents, our lives have become a little more interesting as we navigate our neighbourhoods to give bears space and go about our daily tasks. As a bear biologist and landscape planner, I can spend hours thinking about ways to keep bears and people safe.
Unfortunately, budget cuts by our current government to Alberta Environment and Parks have dramatically reduced the availability and number of our Fish and Wildlife and Park staff to carry out safety and coexistence measures. Yet, we need them more than ever with so many bears around town.
Two things come to mind when I think of how we can all safely live together. First is the need to promptly close an area where a bear is actively feeding to reduce the risk of human-bear conflict. Second is the importance of communication with visitors and residents.
There was yellow tape on my back fence stopping me from going to a popular pathway. I don’t know if the grizzly bear they are targeting is still back there, or if she’s even been sighted in the past few days. It’s so important that we know where bears are, what they are doing, and their behaviour so we can assess where to walk our dogs, which way to bike or walk to work or school, and which areas are safe to enjoy.
Bow Valley communities are leaders in demonstrating how to live with wildlife, but we need to be supported. I don’t feel as though our current MLA, Miranda Rosin, understands this. The Alberta Bear Smart program has not been funded for a few years now and we no longer have a human-bear conflict specialist on staff anywhere in Alberta. I have not seen MLA Rosin advocate for this important program or associated staff.
The current grizzly bear recovery plan recommends more staffing focused on human-bear coexistence. So where are they? Why are we not seeing an increase in staff helping our community in this extremely busy bear season? Can we even trust a government that eliminates a province-wide program designed to keep people safe and recover a species at risk?
Banff-Kananaskis NDP candidate