Garbage blamed as 145 bears shot in Alberta's north

Questions are being raised about garbage management after 145 black bears were shot by wildlife officers in northern Alberta's oilsands region last year.

Oilsands camps need to manage refuse better, wilderness association says

The Alberta government plans to look at garbage management as part of a review into why 145 black bears were shot in the Fort McMurray area in 2011. (Institute of Arctic Biology/AP)

Questions are being raised about garbage management after 145 black bears were shot by wildlife officers in northern Alberta's oilsands region last year.

More than half were killed in oilsands camps in the Fort McMurray area.

Companies running the camps should manage their garbage better, Nigel Douglas of the Alberta Wilderness Association told CBC News.

"They should be required to have the fencing and keep bears away from garbage," he said. "It should be a basic practice which all companies do, and certainly the government should be monitoring these camps and making sure they're doing what they're supposed to do. And if they are attracting bears, make sure that the companies clean up their act or face charges."

However, 51 bears were also killed on residential properties.

Hilda Ivanco has had a few surprise visits lately from bears outside her apartment in the centre of Fort McMurray.

"A bear popped up out of the bush," she said, adding she spotted it just in time to warn a passerby. "And I yelled, 'Excuse me, there's a bear.' "

Provincial review to focus on garbage management

It’s not the only one she has seen — three bears tend to hang out at a nearby garbage dumpster — but Ivanco said they’re not exactly uninvited guests.

"People [were] throwing dog food out and feeding the bears, enticing them to come back," she said.

Alberta Sustainable Resources Minister Frank Oberle said the government will review why so many bears have been shot in the area. The government's review will focus on what it calls "garbage management," as dumps and landfills are turning into the bears' main source of food.

But for now, Ivanco has one clear message for her neighbours.

"Don't feed the bears," she said.