Alberta Fish and Wildlife may have dealt with three bears in Hinton, but that isn’t to say Goldilocks or anybody else shouldn’t continue to be bear aware as others are still reportedly roaming through town.
Chris Watson, Fish and Wildlife officer for the Hinton district, said two bears have been relocated and one had to be put down, but he anticipates continued sightings and activity over the next little while.
“With a strong crop of Buffalo berries throughout and along most hiking trails in town I expect bears will continue to access this natural food source,” he stated.
A four year-old grizzly bear was caught on Aug. 9 at the Hinton Training Centre in a trap set up for a young black bear that has been moving through the area.
The following day, a young black bear was captured in a trap on West River Road, where it accessed garbage disposal bins on the road.
Chris Watson from Fish & Wildlife stated that this isn’t the first time that bears were able to access these garbage bins as last year, two young grizzly bears also accessed this unnatural food source before being relocated.
The young male grizzly bear was released northwest of Grande Cache, a young black bear was released along the Berland River, and the third bear was euthanized due to the behaviour it had been exhibiting.
The third bear was a black bear that did not respond to the officers presence or attempts at intimidation and had lost its fear of humans due to habituation, stated Dana Hazeldine, Fish and Wildlife Officer.
The risk of the public encountering the aggressive black bear that is interested in defending its food source such as this one was, is a potential public safety risk, she added.
Studies have shown that relocation distances over 100 kilometres, especially for male bears, tend to be more successful than shorter distances, according to Watson.
The intent of relocating the bears is to release them in an area of habitat that isn’t occupied by a larger more dominant bear.
“In many instances this is the very reason why young juvenile bears find their way into our communities, as they are out looking for a habitat they can call their own and is not occupied by a more dominant bear,” stated Watson.
This theory is somewhat altered when a significantly larger food source exists, such as an abundant berry crop seen commonly in salmon streams, where many bears will share the food source and defend it less aggressively, Watson added.
“Moving bears is not always the answer and we ask the public to ensure all garbage and other food sources such as bird feeders be put away for the next few months to assist us in our efforts,” said Watson.
Fish and Wildlife are aware of at least five bears moving through Hinton, but there could be more as bears are good at avoiding being seen by people.
“The grizzly bear that was captured at the Hinton training centre is an example of bear that has become adept at foraging on natural food sources and not being seen,” added Watson.
The greatest number of sightings are typically reported in August, as bears come into town to consume Buffalo berries along the hiking trails.
The rainy weather has also had a certain effect on berry production.
New food sources always tempt the bears and can lead to some younger bears accessing unnatural food sources in town, bringing them into conflict within the community.
“Some days we will receive up to ten calls, other days one or none. If a bear happens to wander into the middle of town multiple sightings of the one bear may occur,” said Watson.
Multiple sightings reported on the same bear help officers decipher the movement patterns of the bears and allows traps to be set effectively for their removal.
Bears will likely continue to be spotted in town as bears will typically take advantage of a good food source.
Their energy demands continue to increase throughout the summer and into the fall as they prepare for their big sleep over the winter months, added Watson.
The public’s support in reporting bear sightings is appreciated and the information is used to plan and intercept bears throughout their efforts to capture and relocate the animals, stated Watson.
The best number to report a sighting or concerns of a bear in the community is the ‘report-a-poacher’ line at 1-800-642-3800