Warm season prompts bear awareness warning
Recent mild late-winter and early-spring weather in the region has prompted officials to call on residents and visitors alike to start exercising bear awareness and caution right way.
Chiara Feder, Fish and Wildlife Biologist with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, says bear encounters are now possible anywhere in the region.
“We’ve already had sightings of a black bear and a grizzly bear in the area,” said Feder. “People should absolutely, absolutely be on the lookout for bears right now. We usually don’t expect them out this early but we’ve had sightings and I believe that’s because of the warmer, nicer weather.
“Sometimes the bears may look like they are stumbling around (when they come out of hibernation) but they are definitely looking for something to eat. Because there isn’t much to eat this early, they might get into trouble with carcass or garbage left out because there isn’t much vegetation out there.
“And bird feeders can be a real attractant at this time of year, because bears can get a good meal out of bird feeders.”
People should already be on the lookout for bear tracks in the snow and mud on their properties or other places they visit, she said.
“Watch for tracks or scat,” she said.
As in past springs, Feder and other Fish and Wildlife officials are working closely with the Mountain View BearSmart Society (MVBS), a not-for-profit organization that promotes bear and wildlife awareness through education, public information sessions, and an email-based notification system.
The MVBS held its first meeting of the new year last week. Society members work with residents, tourists, industry, and various government agencies to promote bear danger awareness.
Despite the popular perception that bears hibernate in holes they dig deep in the ground, bears will also hibernate in brush piles or among the roots of fallen trees at ground level, said Feder.
“They might hibernate anywhere, depending where they are,” she said. “Are they always diggers? Not really. If they find someplace that is nice and comfy, they will use that.”
As such, residents and visitors should be cautious when approaching isolated brush piles at this time of year as bears may be coming out of hibernation at the same time.
“You might want to make noise and that sort of thing,” she said.
Anyone spotting a bear, whether a black bear or grizzly, in the region is asked to report the sighting to any local Fish and Wildlife office or at the MVBS website program at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As well, after-hours sightings can be reported any time through the 24-hour toll-free Report A Poacher line at 1-800-642-3800.