Calgary

Kananaskis grizzly sightings prompt trail closure, warning

As Albertans head out to hit the links at the newly-reopened Kananaskis Golf Course, the province is reminding people to stay alert for bears that are also hanging around the area.

Bears are coming out of their dens and in search of food

Bear sightings around Kananaskis Country have prompted a closure between Mount Kidd and the Kananaskis River Bridge. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

As Albertans head out to hit the links at the newly-reopened Kananaskis Golf Course, the province is reminding people to stay alert for bears that are also hanging around the area.

Alberta Parks ecologist John Paczkowski said there have been a number of sightings since spring arrived, but no encounters as of yet, prompting a trail closure and warning for the area.

"There's lush, green, fertilized grass there and the bears are just coming out of their dens," Paczkowski said. "The grass and vegetation around the golf course offers some great grazing opportunities for bears."

A trail cam captured Bear 139 on in Kananaskis in 2017. (Alberta Environment and Parks)

Grizzlies den at elevations as high as 7,000 feet, he said, where the slopes are still under metres of snow and there's no readily available food.

So, the bears have headed down into the valleys, to search for grass, roots, berries and animal carcasses that may have been frozen over the winter.

It's also the start of breeding season. 

"We have a tagged female who's just a young adult right now and she's being courted by a large adult male for the last week or so," he said. "So she's been walking around feeding and he's been sort of blindly following her." 

Paczkowski said results from a 2014 survey of the bear population show it is stable and slightly increasing, with about 64 grizzlies in K-country.

"New bears are coming into the valley bottom daily and we have staff on the ground watching from dawn until dusk."

Parks staff are advising people to stay aware and be prepared for a possible bear encounter.

"Get engaged, it's bear season, make noise, don't have a surprise encounter with a bear at close range, those usually end badly," he said.

"Carry bear spray, know how to use it, travel in groups if you can, and if you must bring your dog out there make sure it stays on its leash and stay close to you."

With files from Dave Gilson

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