Though it's quite early into the hiking season, many bear encounters have already been reported here in Southern Alberta. 

With bears typically coming out of hibernation anywhere between mid-March and late April and more Albertans frequenting their habitats, it's important to refresh on bear safety.

Paul Frame, Provincial Carnivore Specialist with Fish and Wildlife Stewardship in Alberta Environment and Parks, reminds people that while on a hike bear spray is key.

"It’s really important to have that bear spray strapped to your belt because if it’s in your pack and you surprise a mother grizzly with cubs and she comes rushing at you to defend those cubs, it’s just seconds you have to respond."

Other safety tips to remember include: speaking loudly or making noise in areas where bears aren't in your line of sight to ensure you don't surprise them, as well as travelling in groups. 

Frame says if you do happen to come across a bear there's one thing you shouldn't do.

"The worst thing to do is run. So just speak to the bear, back away slowly, they don't generally look at us as food. Most of the attacks by grizzlies on humans are defensive, either we stumble on a mom with cubs or a bear has got a food source where they see you as a threat to.”  

Many may think this information just applies to hikers but with grizzly bear populations on the rise within Alberta, even ranchers or farmers are encouraged to bring safety while out checking cattle, crops or fences. 

Frame says, from the Montana border up to Highway 16 near Jasper inventories have been done and it's shown a steady increase in the population over the past ten to fifteen years. 

"So we’ve done each of the bear management areas and all of them have documented increases in the number of bears. We use a couple of different techniques but basically what we do is we collect hair from bears and with that hair, we can identify individuals and then we use a statistical model that helps us estimate the number of bears in an area where we’ve collected the hair." 

Alberta Environment and Parks can estimate the total number of grizzly bears in Alberta is now between 856 and 973 and has found that the grizzly population has doubled in the foothills area east of Banff National Park.

Other than changing the source of morality by putting an end to the grizzly bear hunt back in 2006, Paul Frame says working with industry in a number of ways has also impacted numbers positively.

"We’ve been doing a lot of work with industry to try and make bear habitats secure, working on smart road planning so that we’re not increasing the density of roads on the landscape beyond what bears can tolerate."

For more information on grizzly bear populations visit the government of Alberta website. visit the government of Alberta website


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