Hot Weather Spurs Increase In Bear Encounters, on CATV

Another way climate change will kill bears.
(Kathy Thompson)A spike in seasonal temperatures has led to an unusual increase in bear encounters both in the wild and in the city, prompting wildlife officials to call this season the summer of the bear.

According to Parks Canada, bears usually enjoy foraging in valley bottoms where food and security are in abundance during the summer months.

“Avalanche slopes remain critical to grizzly bears, offering a rich variety of plant food and forest edge that provides cover,” the website states.

However, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesperson said bears are abandoning that normal safe zone in search of food due to the recent swell in summer temperatures.

“The reason that we’re seeing more bears coming down into these areas is because of that hot, dry weather and the lack of natural forage that they would depend on,” Michael Seraphin said.

On the West Coast, a rash of bear attacks has left some residents fearing for their safety.

North Vancouver resident Michelle Foster said she watched helplessly earlier this month as a black bear scoped out her yellow Labrador in her backyard.

“I yelled at the bear to get lost, because she was chasing my dog, and it looked at me, didn’t take its eyes off me, jumped down the six-foot wall and charged at me,” Foster told CTV British Columbia.

Foster said she and her dog Boo managed to escape unharmed inside her house and slide the patio door shut just as the bear took a single swipe through the opening.

“It got up on my door on its hind legs and then tried to slide it open,” Foster said. “I had to lock my door.”

Another homeowner in North Vancouver, Kathy Thompson, also had an encounter in July when she found a bear taking a leisurely soak in her neighbour’s hot tub.

“(It) rolled around in the hot tub having a great time and hung over the edge and then went into the big pool,” Thompson told CTV British Columbia.

Not everyone, however, has been as fortunate as Thompson and Foster.

North of the province in Alaska, a teenager was crossing a stream with a group of six hikers in July when they surprised a grizzly bear and her cubs. The protective mother mauled the 17-year-old, leaving him with gashes across his mid-section, two broken ribs and a punctured lung.

“The most vivid thing I remember is running and looking behind me and just seeing this huge, like, snarling grizzly bear,” Samual Gottesgen said.

According to Parks Canada, a bear encounter should be handled non-reactively. If a bear approaches, the agency recommends taking the following steps:

Stay calm and avoid screaming or sudden movements because that may trigger an attack
Speak to the bear in a calm and firm voice to let the bear know a human, and not prey, is standing in front of it.
Back away slowly and avoid running because that may rigger a pursuit.
Appear big by staying in a group or picking up small children.
Keep camping gear or bags with you because they may be used as protection.
Mireielle Rousseau, a Bear Guardian Supervisor with Parks Canada, said the best approach to stay safe is just to give bears a lot of space.

“100 metres is ten bus lengths and that is ideal,” she told CTV News.

Some parks in Canada, however, aren’t taking any chances with bear attacks and are introducing restrictions on some of the most popular hiking and biking trails.

Until Sept. 15, visitors hoping to hike or bike through Lake Minnewanka Trail in Banff National Park are required to travel in groups of at least four. At least one person in each group will also be required to carry bear spray.

Parks Canada spokesperson Mark Merchant told The Canadian Press on Thursday that this was the first time the park has made it mandatory for visitors to carry bear spray. If rules are broken, a judge can imposed a fine of up to $25,000 under the National Parks Act.

Merchant said there have been no close calls this season, but he said the risk is always there.

“We have had encounters in the past. We’ve had a mauling and we’ve had also just close encounters,” he said.

With files from CTV Alberta Bureau Chief Janet Dirks.


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