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Black Bear Delivers Special Package at Canmore Grocery Store!

John Paczkowski, a human-wildlife coexistence team leader, urges people to brush up on their bear safety skills as sightings become more frequent

A black bear was seen in the Canmore’s Save-On-Foods parking earlier this week, but he wasn’t there to pick up groceries. 

A black bear unloading at a Save-On-Foods grocery store parking lot in Canmore | Rocky Mountain Outlook

Instead, the black bear delivered a package – a steaming pile of poop. Most of us prefer to use bathrooms, but he preferred a backdrop of the Rockies while doing his business.

Fun aside, the bear’s presence speaks to the time of year. Bears are eager to fill their bellies after losing up to 30 percent of their body weight during hibernation. 

At this time of year, bears are more active in the Bow Valley and Kananaskis Country, which many grizzly and black bears call home. 

Some of these bears will wander into towns like Canmore looking for an easy meal, which could lead to unwanted and potentially dangerous human-wildlife encounters if people aren’t prepared.

John Paczkowski, a human-wildlife coexistence team leader for Alberta Parks, urges people to brush up on their bear safety skills. 

“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,” Paczkowski told Rocky Mountain Outlook while speaking to the number of reports Alberta Parks has received.

So far, 18 grizzly bears, including eight cubs and six newborns, have been spotted in the valley bottoms in Kananaskis Country. 

Three newborn cubs belong to bear No. 104, an adult female grizzly over 20 years old. Bear No. 104 is known for abandoning her cubs early into the second year. 

Mother grizzly bears usually stay with their cubs for about three years and avoid male grizzlies. 

Last year, bear No. 104 left her cubs in June to breed, which she has done with almost all her litters. Some people, and animals too, apparently, aren’t cut out for parenthood.

Two other female grizzlies emerged from their dens with newborns, including bear No. 139, who stays out of public view with her two cubs. 

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

The Importance Of Bear Education

Bear No. 139 is minding her business and staying away from urban areas, but we can’t expect other bears to do the same. 

People need to take precautions to minimize the risk of bear encounters, such as properly storing garbage and waste, which is especially important for people venturing into bear country. 

Buffalo Berries
Buffalo Berries | Julia Adamson

If you are camping or on the trails, make lots of noise, travel in groups, keep your dog on a leash at all times, and carry and know how to use bear spray. 

“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,” said Paczkowski.

Thanks to news coverage and headlines, bear attacks appear more common than they are. 

You might be surprised that North America has only had about 180 fatal bear encounters since 1784. 

Bears are likelier to see people as a threat than a meal, so don’t take it personally.

Most bear attacks are defensive, meaning the bear views the person as a threat to itself, its cubs, or its food source. 

While bears are technically carnivores, meat makes up a small portion of the animal’s diet. Up to 90 percent of a bear’s diet consists of plant matter, like berries, flowers, roots, nuts, and the like. 

Nakoda, our province’s prized white grizzly bear who was recently killed, loved to eat dandelions on the side of the Trans Canada Highway. 

Bears are probably drooling in anticipation of buffalo berries, a sweet and delicious berry produced by shrubs from late summer to early fall. 

Grizzly bears in Banff National Park are known to eat over 200,000 buffalo berries in a single day. 

“…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 and around Canmore and some of the communities in the Bow Valley,” explained Paczkowski.

Bear education and common sense are the best tools for preventing dangerous bear encounters. If you see a bear at your local Save-On Foods, give it space!

Alberta's rare white grizzly Nakoda and her two cubs. The bear family was killed in two separate collisions on the Trans Canada Highway | Government of Canada | CTV News
Alberta’s rare white grizzly Nakoda and her two cubs. The bear family was killed in two separate collisions on the Trans Canada Highway | Government of Canada | CTV News

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