Alberta ranchers brush up on bear safety during workshop

Farmers and ranchers in southern Alberta have been seeing more bears in recent years and a workshop has been designed to help them deal with the encounters.

Bear encounters on the rise in southern Alberta, say ranchers

Children as young as eight-years-old learn how to operate a bear spray cannister during a workshop that focuses on safety for ranchers. (Tim Devlin/CBC)

Farmers and ranchers in southern Alberta have been seeing more bears in recent years and a workshop has been designed to help them deal with the encounters.

A key part of the workshop is learning how to use pepper spray effectively.

Children as young as eight are included in the training.

Alberta Parks spokesperson Jay Honeyman says they have run the workshop several times and it is paying off.

"We've got ranchers now that are carrying bear spray and a couple of years ago they either weren't aware of it, or didn't really believe in it," said the human wildlife conflict biologist.

The Waterton Biosphere Reserve Association sponsored the event.

Calls for regulation changes

Spokesperson Jeff Bectell says it is important for children to learn how to deal with bears.

"They don't just get on the bus in bear country, they feed 4-H calves in bear country, they help fix fence in bear country, and it's a concern for people," he said. 

Bectell says regulations need to change so farmers and ranchers have the right to remove problem bears from their land.

Jennifer Jenkins's family has ranched on land adjacent to Waterton Lakes National Park for more than a century and she says they are seeing far more grizzly and black bears recently.

She says a single grizzly took two calves and injured a third in just 72 hours.

"All I could really do was move the cattle and hope for the best. And let me tell you, you go to bed at night and you know almost for sure that you're going to wake up to a problem in the morning," said Jenkins.

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