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Lost black bear saunters through Canmore grocery store parking lot

Alberta Parks staff have had reports of at least 18 grizzly bears in the valley bottoms in Kananaskis Country
A black bear in the parking lot at Canmore's Save-On-Foods grocery store. FACEBOOK SCREENSHOT

Does a bear shit in the woods? Apparently not.

A lost black bear made his way into the parking lot of Canmore’s Save-On-Foods on Monday (June 11), leaving behind a hot pile as he sauntered through the grocery store parking lot.

A video posted on Bow Valley Community Connection shows the large black bear ambling almost up to the front door before heading towards the southwest corner.

The parking lot wasn’t jam-packed, with at least one shopper in the video completely unaware of the bear’s presence.

Provincial wildlife experts say bears are now active on the landscape throughout the Bow Valley and Kananaskis Country, and will come into Canmore in search of food, so it is time for people to freshen up on bear safety.

“In and around Canmore, it’s been slow and steady with a number of bears around, but nothing out of the ordinary,” said John Paczkowski, who is a human-wildlife coexistence team leader for Alberta Parks.

“In general, we’re seeing both species active on the landscape, with regular daily reports. I wouldn’t say it’s a record year by any means, but it’s a regular year so far for the number of reports.”

There are at least 18 grizzly bears that have been spotted so far in the valley bottoms in Kananaskis Country, including eight cubs. Six of the eight cubs are newborns, referred to as young-of-the-year.

Paczkowski said one of the adult females with three newborn cubs is a high-profile bear, referred to as bear No. 104, and she is more than 20 years old.

“She’s just been spotted in the last few days,” he said.

Last year, bear 104 left her yearling cubs in June in order to breed. The bear has done this with almost every litter she’s had, abandoning them early into the second year to fend for themselves while she’s off mating. Sometimes she reunites with them, sometimes she doesn’t.

A female grizzly bear previously unknown to park managers has emerged from her den with one newborn cub, while bear No. 139, who has been on park management’s radar, is staying out of public view with her two young-of-year cubs for the most part.

“She’s staying conspicuously away from facilities, zones, and people, which is nice,” said Paczkowski.

With the emergence of bears from their dens, campers are encouraged to put garbage in bear-proof bins and keep food secure, and outdoor enthusiasts are reminded to make lots of noise on trails, travel in groups, carry bear spray, and keep dogs on leash at all times.

“Once you head out there in bear country, once you step foot out of your car, expect those bear encounters. Take the time to learn a little bit about bear safety before you go,” said Paczkowski.

“You want to be aware of your surroundings, not only with your ears, but with your eyes and to be watching for bear signs. Certainly, avoid wearing headphones or earphones when you’re out there.”

Bears need space to thrive

Following these recommendations can help reduce the chance of surprise bear encounters.

“You want to give bears space, let them know you’re coming,” said Paczkowski.

“They need the space to thrive on the landscape.”

Bears are being seen in residential neighbourhoods feeding on dandelions and on local trails, but they are also seen along busy roads and highways, causing traffic jams as vehicle after vehicle stops.

“We understand that’s an exciting experience, but we encourage people to have that quick experience and move on and give the bears some space,” said Paczkowski.

“This is an important time for them to be putting on some weight and gathering some calories.”

While bears are currently heavily grazing on spring green-up in valley bottoms like grasses, dandelions and other succulent vegetation, Paczkowski said the buffaloberry crop seems to be “setting up pretty well.”

“We had a little warm spell back in May and that’s when the buffaloberry flower and fertilize, and barring any severe weather – hot or cold or wet or dry – it looks like buffaloberry in and around the Bow Valley will be fairly good this year, which is good for bears,” he said.

“That said, a lot of the buffaloberry production is also in the valley bottom, so into July we’ll probably see a bit of an uptick in the number of bears in around Canmore and some of the communities in the Bow Valley.”

The Town of Canmore recently adopted an implementation and action plan to provide a roadmap to improve human-wildlife coexistence in the community.

“We are learning to live with wildlife,” said Caroline Hedin, communications advisor for the Town of Canmore.

“The Town of Canmore is addressing human-wildlife coexistence to keep wildlife alive and our human community safe.”

In Canmore, report bear sightings to Alberta Fish and Wildlife Dispatch by calling 403-591-7755.

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