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Being Bear Aware

Cinnamon-coloured black bear down south in the Castle Wildland provincial park in June 2023. Devin Brady Photo.

Nicholas L. M. Allen

Sept 27, 2023

Bears are preparing for hibernation and looking for an easy meal. Ensuring your attractants are dealt with accordingly will help deter wildlife conflicts.

As we near the end of September the temperatures are dropping as fast as the leaves from Aspen trees, and wildlife is preparing for winter with some species taking extra measures for their long nap. Bears. From the larger more intimidating grizzly to the smaller in stature but ever inquisitive black bear, these animals are preparing themselves for a long cold winter but to do so they must eat… a lot. As the Crowsnest Pass is a community which is bordered by nature it is bound to have wildlife visiting from time to time and without taking preventative measures we may encounter negative interactions. BearSmart is a program that helps to educate residents living in rural areas on what they can do in the chance of an encounter and how to reduce the number of attractants on their property. 

The Crowsnest Pass is fortunate enough to have their own not-for-profit BearSmart association. The goal of their organization is to reduce conflicts between residents and wildlife that reside in the valley. This time of year, the easiest thing you can do as a resident in the Pass is to reduce the attractants on your property. Fruit bearing trees, such as crab apple trees, are beginning to drop fruit as they prepare for winter. Those with fruit trees should pick and dispose of the fruit appropriately, such as in a bear-resistant receptacle. Another way that residents can help reduce conflicts is by only putting their garbage out the morning of their respective waste collection day. According to the North American Bear Centre this time of year the bears are in hyperphagia, “a period of excessive eating and drinking to fatten for hibernation”. During this phase black bears are known to eat up to 20,000 calories per day with unlimited food sources. Human waste is an easy food source for a wandering bear and the scent can be picked up from great distances, drawing the bear to your property. When a bear becomes accustomed to human inhabited areas they become frequent guests and the chance of a human-bear encounter increases. If this happens, Fish and Wildlife officers along with Wildlife Technicians will then work to trap and relocate the bear but this is a costly venture which may not have a positive impact on the bear. From the Alberta BearSmart Program “a relocated bear may be placed within the territory of another bear and could lead to the death of the relocated bear”. Other attractants can include pet food, bird food from a feeder, compost piles and in some cases pets. If a bear is spotted it is recommended by the BearSmart Association to attempt to repel the bear immediately by making loud noises or using detterents such as bangers or spray. 

BearSmart training is available through the Crowsnest Pass BearSmart Association with the next course occurring on October 1, 2023. Training lasts roughly 4 hours and will include bear spray training by using inert bear spray for practice. In a 2008 study conducted by Thomas Smith, a bear biologist from Brigham Young University along with Stephen Herrero a bear expert from the University of Calgary they used 20 years of data and found that bear spray stopped aggressive bear behaviour in 92 percent of cases. Firearms were effective only 67 percent of the time. The researchers analyzed reported bear attacks in Alaska from 175 people. A similar study was done in 2022 by the United States Geological Survey titled the “Efficacy of bear spray as a deterrent against polar bears”. In the report the study “analyzed 19 incidents involving the use of bear spray on free-ranging polar bears from 1986-2019 in Canada, Russia and the United States”. It was found that from these incidents bear spray was effective in 94 percent of these attacks. Another 54 incidents of polar bear attacks on humans were analyzed and “the data suggest that in 93% of those incidents, the use of bear spray might have saved lives of both people and the bears involved”. To register for BearSmart training it is asked that you email There are a total of 25 slots available, others will be added to a waitlist. 

Further information on BearSmart in the Crowsnest pass can be found on the Associations website, or facebook page ‘Crowsnest Pass BearSmart Association’. 

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