As the hot weather dries out their food supply, bears in southwestern Alberta are making their way into communities within the Crowsnest Pass.
And people are feeding them — either intentionally, or by accident.
“The problem with that is we take these wild animals and we turn them into habituated animals that pose a threat to public safety and security,” explained Christy Pool, the president of the Crowsnest Pass BearSmart Association.
Things like leaving garbage bins out overnight, neglecting to bring pet food inside or leaving fallen tree fruit in the open can lead to the death of a wild animal, according to Pool.
“It is so important to consider your actions and the effect that they have all the way down the line,” she pleaded.
“It’s just such a simple thing to keep things clean and food contained and garbage contained.”
According to Pool, seven bears in Blairmore and Frank were euthanized within a two-day period this week after they became too accustomed to being fed within the community.
“Over the years, I think it’s usually maybe one, maybe two (bears),” she said.
Lisa Sygutek is a frustrated resident of Blairmore, Alta. She said she is no stranger to wildlife, having encountered numerous bears on hikes and deer on her property. She tries to keep her area very bear safe.
However, over the last several days, a bear in her yard was a cause for concern.
“This is the first year where it’s been abnormal for me,” Sygutek explained.
She posted a video to Facebook showing the animal up a tree in her backyard. She said at one point it had two cubs with it.
“This is the first time a bear has looked at me and not been scared — at all.”
While Sygutek lives extremely close to a mountain, advocates believe due diligence is needed for all kinds of residents and visitors.
“It’s something we can avoid,” said former environment and forestry worker Darryl Johnson. “Whether you’re a full-time resident here, a part-time resident here (or) a visitor here, understand that this is a community embedded in the mountains.”
Johnson added that he believes the loss of so many bears in such a short period is “unacceptable.”
According to Pool, a local wildlife peace officer has issued fines related to people contravening municipal bylaws related to feeding wildlife and leaving attractants out.
“I do know that fines have been levied this year, it’s just whether or not people take it seriously is the other part of it,” Pool said.
More information on bear encounters, attractants and deterrents can be found on the BearSmart website.