The arrival of warm weather in the spring increases opportunities for a wide range of outdoor activities from barbequeing, gardening, walking the dog, hiking, biking, to fishing and camping. In any outdoor activity or even going to work, you may encounter bears. I t is the perfect time to be BearSmart.
Alberta is bear country. No matter where you live or spend your leisure time in this province - even in urban areas - you will be near bears or bear habitat. We see them on the side of the highway, on logging roads, on the way to a campsite, in the bush when hiking or working, and even in cities and towns. B ears in Alberta spend 5 to 6 months in winter dens and lose 10 to 30 percent or more of their body weight. In most years bears emerge from their winter dens between mid- April and early May. The entire life of bears evolves around food. When they are not hibernating, bears spend most of their time looking for food, taking advantage of any succulent and protein-rich foods. While bears will eat carrion, insects, fish, deer fawns and moose calves, the bulk of their diet is plant material. Their natural preference is to find high energy food - like huge berry patches - that will help them fatten up fast. Their survival and ability to have and raise young depend on their ability to double their weight before going into winter hibernation. When natural food sources are poor, bears will travel long distances to seek out alternative sources of food. Bears have a keen sense of smell, and are attracted by the odour of human food and garbage. Bird and pet food, greasy barbecues and ripe and decaying fruit and vegetables are invitations to foraging bears. They will topple bird feeders, ransack barbecues, and raid garbage cans to access low-effort, easily-accessible food sources. Seeing a bear can be one of the most memorable experiences, but we must ensure that we don't place bears in situations where people or bears could get hurt. By following certain practices every spring, summer and fall, you can avoid attracting bears to your property or while enjoying outdoor activities:
Cooking odours can attract bears. Remove grease and food residue from barbecue grills after each use, including the grease cup underneath.
Avoid landscaping with trees, shrubs or plants that produce food known to attract bears (e.g., berry bushes, crab apple trees).
Store garbage indoors (house, shed, garage) or in bear-resistant containers that have tight fitting lids. If stored indoors, only put it out on the morning of garbage day, not the night before.
Fill bird feeders only during the winter months.
Feed pets indoors, do not leave pet food outdoors.
Placing your garden in the open, away from cover and game trails, helps to discourage bears.
When hiking, keep an eye for signs of bears (tracks, droppings), travel with others and make noise as you move through wooded areas to alert bears to your presence. P ut any food you are carrying in sealed containers in your back pack.
If you are biking in bear habitat, choose trails that are clear with long sight-lines. Bikers are encouraged to avoid berry patches in the fall as bears are quite active.
When walking your dog, keep it close by and under control. Uncontrolled or off-leash dogs may lead a bear to you.
Avoid backcountry camping near berry patches and always let people know where you are going and how long you plan to be gone. Travel with bear spray in bear habitat and know how to use it.
When camping, eliminate or reduce odours from yourself, your camp, your clothes and your vehicle. Keep your campsite clean. Never cook, eat or store any food (including snacks), cooking equipment or toiletries in your tent. If you are sleeping in a tent try to not sleep in clothes you have worn while cooking meals
Clean fish away from your campsite.
Develop a network with your neighbours to help keep each other informed about bears in your area. Work within your neighbourhood and community to encourage others to manage their garbage, dog food, birdseed - anything that might attract a bear. Keep alert and enjoy the opportunity to see these magnificent animals in their natural habitat. For more information on Alberta BearSmart and Mountain View BearSmart programs check:
www.bearsmart.alberta.ca or www.mountainviewcounty.com/MVBearSmart