Bear encounters: what you need to know

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Bears are one of our province’s wild species and we need to be cautious and alert when we head out into bear habitat. Although rare, bear encounters and attacks do happen and it’s easy to forget what to do or panic if it does happen. Remember that most bear encounters and attacks can be prevented and almost always bears aren’t seeking conflict with humans. Continue reading

Explore Alberta this May long weekend

The May long weekend signals the official start to spring in our province – but it also kicks off the Alberta Parks’ provincial camping season and offers other fun opportunities.

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Karelian bear dogs help keep people and bears safe

Our Fish and Wildlife friends at Alberta Justice enlist some furry friends to help with bear control – here’s the scoop.

Bear Smart in our communities: going beyond the ‘bear’ minimum

The scary bear campfire story is a staple of Alberta camping – and there’s a reason for that. Bears are very large, very powerful, very wild animals – and to us, they can seem very unpredictable. But in fact, we know a lot about the steps we can take to minimize the risk of bear encounters. Alberta’s BearSmart program is designed to help Albertans put those steps into practice.

Photo of a black bear next to a trash can in a residential area.

Improperly stored garbage is the single biggest cause of human-bear encounters.

The program provides a different list of precautions for campers, residential areas, farmers, and businesses, but all the tips come down to the same thing: understanding the causes of human-bear interactions and minimizing them.

There’s no bigger bear attractant than the smell of food. While it makes sense that predators would be attracted by a big, raw steak, other things – like garbage and recycling – might not be as obvious. But improperly stored garbage is the most common culprit behind bear encounters – and it’s crucial that Albertans in bear country take steps to minimize this risk.

That’s exactly what two new Clearwater County bylaws are designed to do. The county is establishing two new subdivisions in Nordegg and requiring that all garbage and recycling in those areas be located off the street in weather proof, bear-resistant containers. This might seem like common sense, but these are some of the first bylaws in Alberta to establish such straightforward management standards for areas that haven’t even been developed yet. Crowsnest Pass has recently passed a similar bylaw for its residents, and we’re hoping other communities will follow.

Photo of a bear resistant garbage can

A little garbage control can make a big difference when it comes to minimizing risk.

Laws are a great way to make sure Albertans take bear hazards seriously – but of course, they’re not the only way. We know that lots of great BearSmart work is being done across the province – and we’d like to feature more of it right here.

Let us know in the comments if your community or business is implementing Bear Smart recommendations in interesting new ways, and your story might be featured in a blog post of its own.

Tips to have fun and stay safe in Alberta’s great outdoors

While the great outdoors are beautiful and fun, they can also be dangerous. Here’s some tips to keep you safe this summer.

Be the wildfire solution – not the problem

80% of Alberta’s wildfires are caused by people.  Embers from cigarettes, campfires, burn barrels, off-highway vehicles, and other man-made sources can all spark a wildfire.

Whether visiting a provincial park or exploring the backcountry, follow these tips to minimize the risk of starting a wildfire:

  • Never leave your campfire unattended.
  • Completely extinguished your campfire before you leave – soak it, stir the ashes, and soak it again.
  • Always use a designated fire pit in provincial parks.
  • Dispose of cigarette butts properly.
  • Ensure your off-highway vehicle has a working muffler and spark arresters and that ‘hot spots’ are kept free of debris.

 

Check for fire bans in your area or provincial park before you head out. When conditions raise the wildfire risk, campfires and fireworks may be prohibited in some areas.

Get a fireworks permit. Permits for any burning activity except campfires are required in Alberta’s Forest Protection Area. Permits are free at any ESRD area office.

Download ESRD’s free Wildfire app to find out, in real time, where wildfires are burning and how they can impact you.

Call 310-FIRE to report a wildfire.

Be Bear Smart while Camping

Bears have started to come out of hibernation. Follow these basic BearSmart camping steps to avoid them:

  • Store food out of reach of bears, preferably in airtight containers in your vehicle – never in your tent. Don’t bury or burn food scraps.
  • Don’t litter – put all garbage in suitable containers or pack it out with you.
  • At night, move around your campsite cautiously and use a flashlight.
  • Keep young children and pets close to you – if you have a dog, keep it on a lease or in your vehicle.
  • Keep a can of bear ‘pepper’ spray handy and know how to use it.

For more information, check out our Bear Smart program tools or these tips for hiking in bear country.

Keep your distance while wildlife watching

We tend to think of bears when it comes to dangerous animals – but many species will react defensively if threatened or provoked.

  • Keep a respectful distance from wildlife, and avoid sudden or startling movements.
  • Make noise when entering a new area to avoid sudden encounters with predators.
  • Make sure you can see and hear clearly at all times.

Use these additional tips to protect yourself in areas frequented by large predators like cougars.

 

Be BearSmart at home and outdoors

Know the distinctive features of Alberta's bears.

Know the distinctive features of Alberta’s bears.

Alberta’s forests, mountains and foothills are home to the black bear and the grizzly bear.  Human encounters with these animals are becoming more common as our activities take us further into bear territory.

If you’re living, working or visiting bear country you should be prepared for a bear encounter at any time.  By becoming ‘BearSmart’ at home and outdoors, you can reduce the likelihood of an encounter, while also ensuring you know what actions to take if you happen to encounter a bear.

BearSmart outdoors

Bears are naturally curious and clever.  They are also individuals, so every encounter will be unique.  Serious attacks are rare but it’s important to always be cautious and alert when camping, biking, or hiking in bear country.

Follow these tips to be BearSmart outdoors:

  1. Make noise – the human voice is the best tool to deter bears. Talk loudly, sing or let out the occasional warning shout. Be extra noisy near flowing rivers and streams.
  2. Carry bear spray in a belt holster and know how to use it – watch the video for instructions.
  3. Travel in groups, keep young children close and keep dogs on a leash.
  4. Watch for signs of bear activity – if the signs look fresh, quickly and calmly leave the area.
  5. Avoid areas with typical sources of bear food – berry patches, grain fields, garbage pits or beehives.
  6. Avoid being out at dawn, dusk or night when bears are most active.

BearSmart at home

After a long winter, bears come out of hibernation with one thing on their minds: find food.

Bears live to eat. Their constant search to find new food sources and excellent sense of smell can lead hungry bears right to your doorstep if you live in bear country. They are easily lured by the smell of garbage, pet food or barbeque drippings.

Once bears have discovered a new food source it can be difficult to keep them from returning. The best thing you can do to prevent problems from starting is to control odours and food on your property.

Keep garbage in airtight containers to avoid attracting bears.

Bears are attracted to the scent of garbage and rotting meat.

Use these 6 steps to BearSmart your yard.

  1. Keep garbage and recyclables in bear-resistant, airtight containers or buildings.
  2. Use an indoor composter – outdoor compost attracts bears.
  3. Clean your barbecue after each use and store it in a bear-resistant building.
  4. Consider removing fruit trees and berry producing bushes from your property.
  5. Remove bird feeders between April and October.
  6. Never leave food, including pet food, outside.

If you see a bear in your backyard, do not panic or run. Calmly head indoors and call your local Fish and Wildlife office at 310-0000, or 1-800-642-3800 after business hours.  Be sure to remove any bear attractants from your yard after the bear has left to avoid a return visit.

For more BearSmart tips visit www.bearsmart.alberta.ca.

Be BearSmart this hunting season

Hunting in bear country this fall?

Bear attacks are rare, but as our outdoor pursuits take us further into bear territory, encounters have become more common.  This can have unfortunate consequences for both the bears and people involved.  Doing everything you can to avoid an encounter is the best practice.

Follow these simple tips to keep you BearSmart for a safe hunting experience.

Hunting safely in bear country

  • Avoid hunting alone. Always ensure someone knows where you are going and how long you are expected to be gone.
  • Carry bear spray and a noisemaker and know how to use them.
  • Remember that animal calls may also attract bears. Distress or mating calls, decoys and cover scents can attract bears as well as game.
  • Be cautious when tracking a wounded animal. Bears may also be attracted to animals that are wounded. When possible, have a partner keep watch.
  • Be cautious when returning to your kill site. If a bear is present or the carcass has been moved or buried, do not approach. Leave the site immediately and advise Fish and Wildlife by calling 310-0000.

How should hunters respond in bear encounters?

  • Carry bear spray as a first line of defense and be prepared to use it.
  • If you see a bear from a distance, back away and leave the area.
  • Evaluate the wind direction. If possible, position yourself so the wind is at your back.
  • If the bear notices you, speak in an authoritative voice and make yourself appear larger.
  • To successfully deter a bear with bear spray, aim a cloud of spray low in front of an approaching bear so the animal runs into it.

Want to know more?  Bear Essentials is an online course offered by the Alberta Hunter Education Instructors’ Association to help individuals entering bear country become bear aware.