CANMORE – A mamma black bear and two cubs have been killed after making a beeline back to Canmore just two weeks after they were relocated for bolting into a downtown restaurant and devouring bags of sugar.
Alberta Fish and Wildlife officers say the bears were euthanized on Monday (Oct. 3) for public safety reasons following reports they were feeding in a downtown dumpster over a period of several nights and sleeping in residential backyards earlier this week.
The third young-of-the-year cub, which was also relocated with the other bears on Sept. 17 to an area west of Caroline, is believed to have died somewhere on the arduous 200-kilometre journey back to Canmore.
Matthew Visentin, a Fish and Wildlife officer with the Cochrane-Canmore district, said the bears showed no fear of people and were no longer eating natural vegetation after getting into a dumpster in a back alley off Marra’s Way – which does not belong to Sauvage, the restaurant the bears entered in mid-September.
“These bears have been euthanized because of the pretty serious habituated behaviour and the fact that they came back in two weeks,” said Visentin.
“It is unfortunate that they were able to actually access dumpsters in the townsite of Canmore because I know Canmore is one of the forefront communities for being bear-smart, so it was quite surprising to see that there was pretty blatant access to garbage.”
According to Visentin, Fish and Wildlife got a call from the RCMP that there was a sow with one cub in downtown Canmore on Sunday (Oct. 2).
“The RCMP advised that they were in the dumpsters,” he said, adding he later learned they had been in the downtown dumpsters for the previous three evenings.
“He had to shoe people away that were trying to take photos and try to tell people to go inside because these bears were in the back right downtown.”
By the time Fish and Wildlife officers arrived that evening, the bears had moved away from the area.
On Monday, there were reports of the bears sleeping in a backyard on Fifth Avenue near Spring Creek.
Visentin said Fish and Wildlife officers went to the home, and based on the ear tags, confirmed it was the sow and two of her cubs that had been relocated on Sept. 17.
He said the bears were euthanized.
“We’re assuming one of the cubs didn’t make it along the journey back to Canmore and that’s why there was only two cubs,” he said. “The others did make their way back in almost exactly 14 days.”
The first reports to Alberta Fish and Wildlife about this family of four bears in Canmore was on Aug. 28 near a playground on Moraine Road. The four black bears managed to evade capture by climbing high up a tree.
Next, the sow and her three cubs moved across the Trans-Canada Highway to hang out on the western edge of Canmore, where they temporarily forced the closure of a hole at Canmore Golf and Curling Club on Sept. 6.
On the evening of Sept. 14, the three cubs bolted into the kitchen of Sauvage Restaurant on 10th Street and devoured bags of brown sugar.
The cubs raced into an open back door as staff made multiple trips to take garbage and recycling out after closing for the night. The mamma bear remained outside close by. Fish and Wildlife officers at the time confirmed that staff at Sauvage did nothing wrong and praised them for how they handled the situation.
A couple of days later, the bear family was found bedded down in a backyard in Spring Creek on Sept. 16. They were caught and relocated to an area about 200 km northeast of Canmore on Sept. 17.
Visentin said the sow and two of her cubs returned to pretty much the same downtown area they had been hanging around before relocation.
He said there had been various reports of the bears along Policeman’s Creek as well as along 10th Street.
“These bears, when we moved them the first time, had been into non-natural food sources, such as the sugar and getting into that business, and actually showed pretty serious signs of habituation,” he said.
“They were moved and quite surprisingly they came back, but not only did they come back to town, they went back to within a block of where they were moved from.”
Fish and Wildlife officers have relocated four other black bears and one grizzly bear out of Canmore so far this year.
A mamma bear and her cub were relocated on Aug. 29 after feasting on a fruit tree in downtown Canmore off 10th Street.
One provincial study indicates relocation of black bears has only a 30 per cent success rate.
Visentin said Fish and Wildlife plans to work with the Town of Canmore’s bylaw department.
“It’s unfortunate… they continued getting into food sources that they shouldn’t have been able to get into,” he said.
“We will be in discussions with bylaw on mitigation concerns moving forward.”
Town of Canmore officials say that while the Municipal Enforcement team has been in touch with Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) regarding this incident, they have not received any formal request for investigation.
"They are awaiting additional information from AEP to determine if investigation is required," said Cara Hedin, communications advisor for the Town of Canmore.
Hedin said regardless of this particular incident, the Town reminds all commercial operators within Canmore that under the recycling and waste bylaw, commercial premises are responsible to dispose of waste generated on their premise in animal-proof bins or animal-proof enclosures.
"Ensuring that all waste is secured in animal-proof bins or enclosures is vital for wildlife coexistence in our mountain town," she said.
Members of the public can report commercial operators in contravention of this bylaw to Municipal Enforcement at: 403-678-4244.