Calgary

New Banff fence will zap bears who try to climb it to eat roadside dandelions

Banff National Park is trying a new strategy to keep bears off the highway.

Fence delivers a non-lethal shock to keep bears safe

In the name of safety, a stretch of Banff's wildlife fence will now zap bears that try to climb over to eat greener grass on the otherside. 1:58

Banff National Park is trying a new strategy to keep bears off the highway.

The park recently installed five kilometres of electrified wire along fencing on the side of the TransCanada highway, east of the Banff townsite.

Dan Rafla, a human-wildlife coexistence specialist for the park, said every summer, parks staff will see black bears climb the fence to eat dandelions and berries on the other side.

"In spring through June, we'll actually see a pulse of activity of bears crossing over the fence," he said.

"Then it might peter off into July … as the snow melts off the landscape, grass grows elsewhere, and the animals follow that green wave up the mountains. Then we might see it again in August as buffalo berries come online in the valley bottom."

Banff National Park has installed an electric wire to hopefully deter bears from climbing a fence to feast on dandelions along the highway. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Staff have already removed berries and other food attractants from the highway side of the fence, and have replaced and upgraded fences to prevent animals burrowing underneath.

Now, the new wiring, installed far from any human trails a few weeks ago, will deliver strong but non-lethal zaps to encourage the bears to wander off in search of a safer place to cross.

And Rafla said it's working so far.

Dan Rafla is a human-wildlife coexistence specialist with Banff National Park. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

"Unless something radically different has happened, that area where the hot wire [was installed] has been a traditional hotspot for bears climbing over for years and we haven't had one yet this year."

Rafla said they'll be assessing the wire's effectiveness over the course of the summer.

They have also introduced warning signs and highway speed reductions near those trouble spots to remind drivers to stay alert. 

Dan Rafla, with Parks Canada, shows a new electric fence that is meant to deter bears from climbing it to feast on dandelions near the highway. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

With files from Dave Gilson

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