Hikers who are heading to Kananaskis Country should consider leaving their dogs at home because they present added risk during bear encounters, according to an area Alberta Parks official.
“When you have your dog with you, sometimes that dog can be perceived as a threat,” John Paczkowski, a Kananaskis Country park ecologist, said Thursday.
“A female with cubs might think that the dog is threatening her cubs and might attack aggressively in a defensive manner.”
Research shows that tens of thousands of dogs are brought to the back country by their owners, according to Paczkowski. He added that many are not on leash, even in areas where they’re legally required to be.
“People are recreating irresponsibly and putting themselves and their dogs at risk,” Paczkowski said.
“Until that point where you’re face to face with a bear, you don’t realize that maybe you’re pushing the boundaries a little bit.”
On Monday, a black bear charged a woman hiking with her dog in Banff. The incident led to an area closure.
Parks Canada officials believe the bear was a female with cubs in the area.
Bears can often be aggressive toward dogs, because they may mistake them with wolves, according to experts.
“Bears and wolves don’t get along well in the wild and so a hiker with a dog, from a bear’s perspective, looks like a hiker with a wolf on a leash,” said Bill Hunt, a Parks Canada resource conservation manager.
“It really makes sense if we know that there’s a female with cubs in the area to give them that space and security that they need.”
If you still choose to bring your dog with you to an area where bears are known to be, Paczkowski said it’s important to follow these steps:
- Keep your dog on a leash
- Keep your dog under control
- Be on the lookout for bears
- Carry and know how to use bear spray