A bear and her cub caused quite a stir at the Sagitawah RV Park and Campground near Whitecourt, Alberta, the night of May 29.
Around 5 p.m. the RCMP received a complaint that a bear was roaming around near a campsite at the park and could not be scared off, The Whitecourt Star reported.
Constable Heather Cosenzo was one of the RCMP officers who responded to the complaint.
“It was a mother bear and an older cub,” said Cosenzo. “The bears were not being aggressive but they would not leave the area. They had obviously been fed by someone or had gotten into some garbage since they were not scared of people.
“We called in Fish and Wildlife from Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) to deal with the situation. They are the ones that have the bear traps and know how to deal with the animals,” said Cosenzo.
“Basically we were there to secure the area until fish and wildlife arrived. We did not want anyone making the situation worse by trying to feed the bear or to get a good photograph or anything like that. We were there to make sure the public was safe until the people from fish and wildlife could deal with the situation,” Cosenzo said.
A conservation officer from Barrhead was dispatched and arrived in Whitecourt at approximately 7 p.m. The conservation officer then set a live bear trap near the campsite.
The next day, Greg Gilbertson, the district fish and wildlife officer for Whitecourt went to check the trap.
“I found a male yearling bear in the trap, the yearling that was spotted with its mother from the evening before,” said Gilbertson. “I then had to put down the bear.
“According to witnesses, it is believed the mother crossed the highway (Highway 43) and has left the area,” said Gilbert. “However, there is a good chance this bear may reoffend and seek out garbage again, if not back at the campground but somewhere else.”
Gilbert said it is SRD’s policy to destroy any bear that has been conditioned to human garbage.
“Any bear that has gotten used to eating human garbage could be a danger to the public since it has lost its fear of people,” said Gilbertson.
“Unfortunately, there is nowhere within 60 miles of Whitecourt to relocate a bear that has become conditioned to garbage. There are so many residential and camping areas where bears can get into human garbage,” said Gilbertson.
Gilbertson reiterated that no one likes to see an animal get destroyed because they have become conditioned to garbage and people.
To minimize the possibilities of contact with bears people need to practice bear smart activities said Gilbertson.
“It is essential that people practice bear smart activities, especially from May 1 to Oct. 30 when the bear’s are most active in the Whitecourt area,” said Gilbertson.
“Bears depend on their sense of smell more than any other sense so it is important to eliminate any food odours as much as possible,” said Gilbertson.
“If you are camping, clean up as soon as you are finished eating. Do not let the smell of food linger. Keep all food in airtight containers, including pet food. If possible, store all your food when camping in your vehicle or camper,” Gilbertson said.
“If you live on the outskirts of town, do not have any food products in your compost and do not leave any of your pet’s food outside,” Gilbert said. “And perhaps the most important thing to remember is, obviously, to take proper care of your garbage. Do not let wildlife have easy access to your garbage.”