Sightings of Black and Grizzly bears are not uncommon this time of year, but with the recent scorching Summer weather, where bears go to find food is likely to change.

Human Wildlife Conflict Biologist in Canmore, Tim Honeyman, says with the warmer than average weather, typical bear food sources might dry up and become less predictable.

"Buffalo berries, a common food source for local bear species have been wilting in some locations, quicker than previous years. This might cause bears to travel further than normal to find ample food sources. They're not really interested in interacting with humans, but at this time of year both Grizzly and Black bears will be heading to the valley bottom to scavenge for Buffalo berries, which coincides with the height of tourist season."

Honeyman says, this doesn't necessarily mean bears will be swarming places inhabited by humans, but sightings in populated areas and mountain trails, may occur.

"We live in a pretty busy area in the High River and mountain park areas, so wherever people live, there's a good chance that bears will be there as well, especially in places where food is intentionally or unintentionally left out for them."

Honeyman says that typical grazing patterns are slightly different between Grizzly and Black bears approaching their hibernation season.

"In the fall, Grizzly bears typically move upwards into the mountains, and Black bears tend to remain lower in the valley before heading into their den, but all of their activity patterns are focused around finding food."

So what should be done to minimize the risk of an encounter with a bear?

Honeyman shared a few tips.

"Well the big thing is to not have an encounter in the first place, which primarily means making plenty of noise if you're on a mountain trail hiking or camping, to let animals know your coming, and in 99.9% of the time the animals will hear you approaching and move off the trail. If in a residential area, or a campground, it's making sure there's no food available for bears to get into, assuring you're not leaving stuff on a picnic table, all food is put away with any leftovers left in the car, overnight if possible."

If an encounter is inevitable, or a bear approaches you, Honeyman suggests to not panic, and slowly withdraw.

"Well the main thing is to stop and assess the situation, if the bear see's you, and you see the bear, stop, talk very quietly and increase your distance from the bear. Where some encounters become problematic is when you surprise the bear, and the bear feels threatened by your presence."


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