UPDATE: After further investigation, Alberta Fish & Wildlife said the woman may have inadvertently entered the closure area and she will not face penalties.
A woman in Canmore, Alta., was injured by a bear on the weekend while walking with her dog in an area that had been closed due to bears, according to WildSmart.
The encounter happened Sunday evening near the reservoir above the town, according to the local non-profit organization devoted to reducing human-wildlife conflicts.
"She went to the hospital and got treated for her injuries and was released," said Nick de Ruyter with WildSmart.
"The dog was not harmed."
Alberta Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Sherene Khaw confirmed the incident, which she said is still under investigation.
Fish and Wildlife officers are "are in the process of determining next steps," Khaw said in an email.
Areas around the reservoir and lower down toward the townsite have been under a temporary closure that went into effect on July 28.
The Government of Alberta closed the area because numerous bears had been spotted feeding on berries in the vicinity.
Fish and Wildlife officers have confirmed that there are several bears in the area but, based on trail camera photos, it appears they are black bears, not grizzlies.
'Locals should know better'
Tourists and visitors to the Rocky Mountains have been blamed a lot this summer for risky behaviour around bears. De Ruyter said he was surprised that it was a local resident who ventured into the closed area in this case.
"Locals should know better," he said.
"A lot of the locals point fingers at visitors and tourists, but one of the things that locals need to know is that locals aren't immune to bears. Everyone has to respect and obey the warnings and closures."
The Canmore off-leash dog park and adjacent Quarry Lake swimming area are still open but pretty much all the wooded areas surrounding those popular spots are included in the bear closure.
"They're very well signed," de Ruyter said of the closed areas.
"There's very, very obvious yellow tape that says 'Do Not Enter' on it at every main artery or walking path into the closed area."
There's been a bumper crop of berries in the area this summer that has kept bears coming back, de Ruyter added.
"There's good food to have there," he said.
"[The bears] are so focused on the feeding that they don't really pay attention. So it's really easy to surprise or startle a bear while they're eating — and that's what we don't want to do."
Doing the right thing
Jo'Ann Alderson has lived in Canmore for almost 20 years and says there's a responsibility that comes with living in the area.
"It's the humans who have the knowledge, it's the humans who can make the decision to do the right thing and it's the humans who need to do the right thing," she said.
"And we have too many people who are doing what they want to do for themselves, what's convenient for themselves."
Alderson says if people aren't getting the message with the fines currently in place, perhaps those fines need to increase.
"We don't want people to be injured and we don't want animals to be put down, plain and simple. If the message is the pocketbook the message is the pocketbook."
New bear closure
Meanwhile, another bear closure was put into effect on Monday along the paved bicycle path from Elkwood to Boulton Creek Campground in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, about 70 kilometres south of Canmore.
A grizzly bear has been feeding on berries in that area.
In its advisory about the closure, Alberta Parks stressed that "bears can be encountered anywhere in Kananaskis Country at any time"
To avoid surprise bear encounters, the province advises:
- Make plenty of noise and travel in groups.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Look and listen for bears and their signs.
- Keep your pet on a leash.
- Carry bear spray. Make sure it's easily accessible, and know how to use bear spray.
- Learn more about bear safety from Alberta Parks and WildSmart.