CANMORE – A black bear family has been moved out of town after three cubs bolted into a local downtown restaurant last week and devoured bags of brown sugar.
The three young-of-the-year cubs made their way into the kitchen of Sauvage Restaurant on 10th Street at 10 p.m. on Sept. 14 through a back door as staff made multiple trips to take the garbage and recycling out after closing for the night.
The mamma bear remained outside close by.
“It looks like the baby bears came running straight into the kitchen through that door,” said Tracy Little, the owner of Sauvage who was able to view camera footage of the incident.
“It’s crazy that they didn’t even stop to sniff around; they ran straight into the back room and grabbed the brown sugar. They probably consumed about two bags as quickly as they could.”
Alberta Fish and Wildlife officers praised the quick-thinking staff, who quickly ran through the front door to close a door between the main restaurant and back room.
They say no enforcement action was taken, noting staff did nothing wrong.
“I think it was just an accident; the door was open and the bears took the opportunity,” said Fish and Wildlife officer Aaron Szott.
“The cubs got into bags of brown sugar, but I believe the interaction in the restaurant was very short. The bears got spooked and ran out the back door and they were last seen, I believe, heading back towards Policeman’s Creek.”
Staff were quick to call the RCMP and Fish and Wildlife were notified.
“They were so freaked out, but I think they did everything they were supposed to do,” she said.
“We were lucky the last people had just left the restaurant so it was just staff.”
This is the same black bear family that began showing up in residential neighbourhoods on the north side of the Trans-Canada Highway in late August.
Szott said there were no more reports of the black bear family after getting into Sauvage until a resident called on Sept. 16 that the sow and her three cubs were bedded down in a backyard in Spring Creek.
“The officers were able to attend, locate the four bears sleeping in the backyard, and able to successfully immobilize the sow,” he said.
“The officers set up a trap after the sow was immobilized and then the cubs were caught in a trap overnight.”
The next day, on Sept. 17, the bear family was relocated to an area west of Caroline, about 200 kilometres northeast of Canmore.
The hope is it is far enough away that the bears won’t make their way back to town.
“They’ve got lots of room to roam,” said Szott.
The first reports to Alberta Fish and Wildlife about this family of four bears was on Aug. 28 near a playground on Moraine Road.
Attempts were made to capture them, but the four bears evaded by climbing high up in a tree.
By Aug. 30, this bear family moved towards the eastern edge of town off Elk Run Boulevard.
Next, the sow and her three cubs moved across the highway and were on the northwest edge of Canmore, temporarily closing down a hole at Canmore Golf and Curling Club on Sept. 6.
Szott said there have been no reports of the bear family getting into human food or garbage until now.
“That was the first report we had of them eating unnatural food sources. Other sightings would be them eating natural vegetation and berries,” he said.
“They were more or less seen travelling through green spaces, and at night when people aren’t out and about typically.”
Szott said Fish and Wildlife is working with the Town of Canmore’s bylaw department to try to get the message out about attractant management.
“People have to have their fruit trees free of fruit, as well as BBQs cleaned off, and no pet food left out,” he said.
Under Canmore’s new community standards bylaw – which replaces the old wildlife attractant bylaw – it is against the law to let fruit or berries accumulate on trees, bushes and on the ground. Fines can range between $250 and $10,000.
Specifically, the bylaw states no person shall permit a wildlife attractant to be placed or remain in an outdoor location where the wildlife attractant is accessible to wildlife. Wildlife attractant is defined as any substance that could reasonably be expected to attract wildlife, including, but not limited to fruit, garbage, refuse, food, food waste, and compost.
Fish and Wildlife officers have relocated seven black bears and one grizzly bear out of Canmore so far this year.
A mamma bear and her cub were relocated on Aug. 29. The duo had bedded down under a tree in a backyard of home on 10th Street, next door to Paintbox Lodge. The bears had been feasting on an apple tree in the yard.
One provincial study indicates relocation of black bears has only a 30 per cent success rate.
Meanwhile, there have been several reports of a brown-coloured black bear on the western edge of town towards Canmore Golf and Curling Club.
“He hasn’t made his way closer to town,” said Szott.
“He’s feeding on natural food sources, so we’re monitoring.”