The Bragg Creek Community Association sponsored a “Bear Aware” presentation on May 30, 2015. Jay Honeyman, the Alberta Parks wildlife biologist who deals with human/bear conflicts delivered a most informative talk, complete with charts, maps, videos and photos. A large group of about 90 people attended; families, young couples and seniors were there.
I’ve attended quite a few of these things. Each one is different and I always learn new things. Grizzly bears are protected in the mountain parks and they are supported on private lands – like in Bragg Creek. Some of the support comes in the form of meetings like this, where we’re told how to avoid conflicts by securing, garbage, livestock feed, gardens, domestic pets and bird feeders. We were told how to handle an encounter with bears. There is no right or wrong way. You have to assess the situation (oh really?). Black bears and grizzlies have different behaviours. No bear is predictable; depending on the situation they may be defensive, offensive, curious or stressed. No matter what the situation, DON’T RUN. Back up, turn sideways, talk calmly, try to look bigger and stay together in a group. But, if things escalate, stand your ground and shout. If things escalate, lay on your stomach and protect the back of your neck with your hands.
Bear spray works. Always keep it handy and use it sparingly, in short bursts when the animal is within about 16 feet. In 98% of recorded cases where bear spray was used, no injuries were sustained. If a bear or other wildlife is a public safety concern, call the Fish and Wildlife office at 310-0000 or after hours, call the Report a Poacher line at 1-800-642-3800. Otherwise call 911.
If you ever get a chance to become bear aware – take it. In fact do it now. Visit Bearsmart Alberta.