Climbing a fence is a walk in the park for the bears of Banff National Park — but park officials are worried that puts the animals in danger.
Dandelions and other vegetation are tempting the animals to scale eight-foot-tall fences that line the Trans-Canada highway.
“As the season goes on, they’ll move to other food sources, but right now, it’s been a late spring and the first food sources are in the valley bottom,” said Dan Rafla, a Parks Canada human-wildlife coexistence specialist, on Tuesday.
“On the other side of the fence, where they’re coming from, it’s pretty forested so there’s not a lot of sun getting to the forest floor and not a lot of plants growing.
“We’re seeing a lot of bears in the valley bottom, but in this case, also alongside the roadways.”
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Parks Canada has installed five kilometres of solar-powered electric wire along both sides of the highway east of the Banff townsite in hopes of directing the bears to safer nearby wildlife crossings.
While the shock the wire delivers is powerful enough to discourage bears from trying to climb the fence, Parks Canada said it is not enough to harm them or other animals.
“It’s used in agriculture, it’s used in campground areas, it’s quite common and it’s a very effective tool to deter wildlife, particularly bears, but non-injurious and non-lethal as well,” Rafla added.
“It’s enough that they won’t try it again.”
If the pilot project goes well, a similar hot wire could be installed at other bear hot spots around the park.
Parks Canada has identified two other potential areas west of the townsite that currently have signs urging drivers to slow down because of bears in the area.