Alberta wildlife officers alert property owners after ‘drastic increase’ in bear sightings

Wildlife officers across northern Alberta have responded to a spike in bear sightings. In the northeast region alone, officers have dealt with upwards of 40 black bears so far this year.

“The officers in Fort McMurray have dealt with more bears already this year than they did all of last year,” said Mike Ewald, regional problem wildlife specialist with Fish and Wildlife.

Ewald said the drastic increase in calls started before the wildfires.

“It’s critical that the residents really clean up and secure any attractants.”

Attractants, or food sources, include a long list of things a bear will eat:

  • compost/garbage
  • bird feed
  • pet food
  • petroleum products
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    “If it smells like food and tastes like food, it’s food to a bear,” said Ewald. “They’ll eat it.”

    “I had one instance where a bear ate an entire case of grease tubes.”

    “When they get habituated, they have no problem crawling into the back of a truck… They will do their best to get in, even if it means breaking a window.”

    Ewald said the dry spring delayed the green up and berry bloom, so now bears are roaming closer to properties, in and outside of the cities where yards are lush and green.

    Earlier in the week, a young black bear wandered onto Joan Wakelam’s acreage in Sturgeon County.

    The curious bear sniffed garbage bags full of recycled cans on Wakelam’s deck. At one point, it started to climb up on the outdoor coffee table.

    Fish and Wildlife officers set up a bear trap on Joan Wakelam’s Sturgeon County property.

    “I thought: ‘If he stands up against the kitchen window, then he’s going to come in!’”

    “Since 1985 we’ve lived out here… never seen a bear out here. Never, ever, ever, ever.”

    Watch below: The number of black bears wandering onto rural properties and even in cities in this part of the province is way up. Wildlife officers urge people to secure anything a bear could smell and eat. Kendra Slugoski has the details.

    The black bear sniffed out a 20-pound bag of bird seed that had been covered with a plastic bin.

    “He knocked it over and he was chowing down pretty good. Chomp, chomp, chomp,” said Wakelam. “I thought, ‘Oh, he’s going to be here for days now.’”

    The bear gobbled up the seed and rubbed its back on a tree before it eventually took off.

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    A young black bear wandered onto Joan Wakelam’s rural property near Stony Plain, Monday, June 3, 2019.

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    The black bear tipped over a bin covering a 20 lb bag of bird seed.

    Fish and Wildlife later brought out a bear trap to Wakelan’s property and told her, because the bear had a “double-feed,” it would likely come back.

    “If they get a reward then they’re going to keep coming back,” said Ewald. The problem wildlife specialist added bears have an incredible sense of smell and can detect a barbeque up to 10 miles away.

    Ewald said officers try to relocate bears if trapped, but said if they are a danger to the public or keep coming back to a property, they will be put down.

    Wildlife officers want property owners to report any bear sightings. You can call your local Fish and Wildlife office, or the 24-hour report-a-poacher line at 1-800-642-3800.

    Officers especially want to know if a sow is roaming an area with her cubs.

    If you see a bear, don’t chase it. Instead, try to scare it off with a loud noise.

    Wakelam has since secured any potential food sources on her property and said she hopes the bear wandered off of found its “forever home.”

    “We have to remember this is their land, not ours, right?”

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