Officials in Kananaskis Country are worried about the future of Grizzly Bear 94 and her three cubs after backcountry skiers continue to ignore closure signs in the Black Prince area west of Calgary where the bears are denning.

Park ecologist John Paczkowski says the mother is hibernating but is not in a deep sleep.

"She's still quite active and she's in a small little hole in the ground so she's probably getting jostled around a little bit."


Bear 94 and her three cubs in an undated photo. (Alberta Parks)

The den, in an area known locally as the "tree cone," is a popular spot for skiers to have lunch. This winter officials shut down the area completely for the first time.

But Randy Axani, Kananaskis district conservation officer, says people are ignoring the closure and they are letting their dogs run loose as well.

"We have a lot of sensitive wildlife in the winter, as well as summer, and if they have a dog off-leash when they're having a hard time just making a living in the backcountry, it's tough on them. So we encourage backcountry skiers to just leave the dogs at home," said Axani.

Park staff have issued 11 tickets so far for people not respecting the closure. In addition, 41 off-leash dog violations have been issued for the area.

The off-leash violations this winter represent an increase of nearly 75 per cent compared to last winter.

"It's a concerning figure," said Axani.

John Paczkowski says the Black Prince area will remained closed for the remainder of the season because the situation is both a public safety hazard and a threat to the survival of the bears.


The Black Prince area of Kananaskis country is closed for the remainder of the winter. (Nadia Stewart/CBC)