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Be bear aware at home and in the backcountry

Lots of bear encounters and sightings have been reported near municipalities and out in the wild.
Many bears sightings and encounters near municipalities and out in the backcountry have been recently reported in the region.

A man was mauled by a grizzly bear near Sparwood over the weekend, making it the third such encounter over the last two weeks by East Kootenay residents.

The man, who was hunting, came across a sow and cubs that were near a recent kill site, however, he was able to get himself to the Elk Valley Hospital in after sustaining serious injuries.

Conservation officers shut down the area to investigate the kill site of the animal the grizzlies were guarding. No action is being taken against the bears.

It's not just hunters who are encountering bears out in the backcountry; grizzlies and black bears have been spotted in and around communities such as Cranbrook, Kimberley and Fernie.

Conservation officers have attributed the sightings to to a poor berry season, which is drawing the bears closer to the valley as they search for food for winter hibernation—a cause confirmed by Tara Szkourpa, a wildlife biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Branch.

"We definitely agree with that, that's something we've observed this year in a lot of areas—either that there was an early berry crop and so it's not holding the bears up high right now, or even the total failure of berries in some areas, so that is something that we're all quite concerned about and really trying to get the word out to people to be vigilant and avoid having any attractants around camp and at home."

Within municipalities and rural homes, attractants such as household garbage, pet food, compost bins, orchards and bird feeders can lure bears to household backyards.

Keep garbage indoors and feed pets indoors. During bear season, it's advisable to avoid hanging bird feeders, while grass and yard clippings are recommended for an outdoor compost, with indoor worm composters are recommended for food scraps.

If you're out in the backcountry, pack bear spray and have it on a belt for easy access. If you encounter a bear, remain calm, don't make eye contact and back away slowly, taking the same route away that you came in.

If a bear makes snorting noises and charges, veering off at the last second, it is likely defensive behaviour, so continue to back away.

If bear spray needs to be deployed in an aggressive incident, be aware of wind direction and place yourself accordingly. Wait until the bear is 10-20 yards away and aim slightly downwards before spraying.

The Sparwood incident the latest in a string of grizzly encounters, as an angler fishing on Findlay Creek was mauled last week by a grizzly guarding a domestic cow carcass.

The man was bitten in the hand and the leg, but was able to return to Canal Flats and received medical treatment at the Invermere Hospital. Conservation officers removed the cow carcass from the area and no action was taken against the bear.

Closer to Cranbrook, Chad Dueck has returned home after receiving medical attention in Calgary following a grizzly mauling near the Spray Irrigation Field two weeks ago.

Dueck was out elk hunting on opening day of archery season when he encountered a grizzly with cubs. The bear charged Dueck, who fought off the animal with his bow. He received serious, but non life-threatening injuries and is currently recovering from surgery back home.


Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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