CANMORE – Bear season is on.
Alberta Environment and Parks has confirmed several bear sightings in the valley bottom around Canmore, including a female grizzly bear with two older cubs, a lone grizzly bear and a number of black bears.
Wildlife officials say a grizzly bear family, which denned in the Bow Valley this winter, was recorded by remote camera footage using a local underpass beneath the Trans-Canada Highway on Wednesday (April 27).
“Reports are coming in more and more regularly so it’s on – it’s bear season,” said John Paczkowski, an ecologist with Alberta Parks in Kananaskis Country.
“In the last week we’ve had grizzly bears coming out of the den and we’re seeing more black bears. I would hazard a guess to say well over 90 per cent of bears are out of their dens now, perhaps more.”
Photos and reports of grizzly bear sightings have come from near the Engine Bridge over the Bow River, and throughout the south side of the valley between the Canmore Nordic Centre and the Three Sisters area.
Paczkowski said a lone grizzly bear moved from the Engine Bridge up through the Canmore Nordic Centre to Three Sisters to “points now unknown.”
He said there is also a female grizzly bear with cubs, which are estimated to be three or four years old. They can be monitored because one of the cubs is fitted with a tracking collar.
“She actually denned in the Bow Valley and they’ve come down and are on the edge of Canmore,” Paczkowski said.
“They’ve gone through some areas where there’s some recreational trails; right now they’re in a good spot, but they do move around, so make lots of noise.”
With bear season underway comes important reminders to residents and visitors to brush up on their safety skills, including carrying bear spray, making sure it is easily accessible and knowing how to use it.
It’s also time to put bird feeders away as per the Town of Canmore’s ban on bird feeders from April 1 to Nov. 30.
“Make sure you clean up your bird feeders, your dog food and store attractants properly,” said Paczkowski.
“For those recreating, it’s time to switch your headspace from winter recreation to spring and summer recreation and start carrying bear spray and making noise.”
Dogs must also be on leash at all times.
“I did observe an incident the other day with local residents who had their dogs off leash barking at this grizzly bear,” said Paczkowski, adding the incident occurred in an area near Canmore Nordic Centre.
“It’s never OK to have your dog off leash and now that it’s bear season, it’s even less OK, so don’t be part of the problem.”
Meanwhile, Alberta Parks has been looking into an incident involving someone harassing a black bear in its den. The video, which shows the bear swatting at the person, was posted on social media.
However, it is not known where the incident occurred or if it was even in the Bow Valley or Kananaskis Country.
Regardless, Paczkowski said it is never OK to harass wildlife.
“Please don’t approach or harass bear dens. It seems unusual to say ‘please don’t stick your arm into a bear den’ but here we are having to say ‘don’t stick our arm into a bear den’,” he said.
“It’s a critical period for bears and they don’t need the extra harassment. It also puts people and the bear at greater risk – people from a potential physical encounter and you might displace the bear from the den.”
Paczkowski was also reluctant to boost the profile of the video any further.
“I am really hesitant to fan the flames on media attention on this as it does, in fact, reward those people who are doing inappropriate activities by bolstering their social media profile,” he said.
People are asked to report any sightings of bears, cougars, wolves or any aggressive wildlife. For Kananaskis and the Bow Valley, call Kananaskis Emergency Services at 403-591-7755. For Banff National Park, call Parks Canada's Dispatch at 403-762-1470.