Lake Minnewanka trails, camps closed after bear stomps tent for wine

A bear stomped on a tent sniffing out a glass of wine on the weekend, prompting Parks Canada to close the Minnewanka area of Banff National Park for up to three weeks.

Campers made 'one mistake' by leaving drink out for animals to smell, manager says

Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park has been closed after a bear, not pictured, damaged an unoccupied tent at a backcountry campsite. (fRI Research)

A bear stomped on a tent sniffing out a glass of wine on the weekend, prompting Parks Canada to close the Minnewanka area of Banff National Park for up to three weeks.

The closure, announced Tuesday, covers the Minnewanka Lakeshore trail and area from Stewart Canyon to the boundary of Banff National Park, including Aylmer Pass Trail. All six campgrounds in the area are closed.

The campers were off making dinner when the bear smelled a glass of wine left in their unoccupied tent, Parks Canada conservation manager Bill Hunt said Wednesday.

After eating at the designated spot, they returned to find bites and scratches on their belongings.

They promptly packed up and paddled out by canoe from the campground. They later reported the incident to Parks Canada.

The area around Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park has been closed after a bear damaged an unoccupied tent. (Parks Canada)

Their backcountry campsite, LM11, was along the picturesque lake and near a buffalo berry patch with a bumper crop this time of year.

The group's "one mistake" was to leave the wine in their tent, instead of the designated food storage," Hunt said.

"That doesn't sounds like much, but for a bear anything with a unique odour is interesting," he said. "It's going to pique their curiosity and they're going to want to taste it and smell it."

The campers paddled away from the lake, not pictured, in Banff National Park. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

Parks Canada issued seasonal trail restrictions, as it does annually, for the region to protect against hungry bears attracted to area's berries. 

Any hiking parties had to travel in minimum groups of four, carry bear spray, and not bring dogs or bicycles on the trails. But after the bear tent stomping, that's been raised to a closure.

The region is expected to reopen Aug. 2, but until then, trespassers can face a fine of up to $25,000.

"If we can open it up sooner, we will but safety's our No. 1 priority," Hunt said.

'No fingerprints'

Finding the offending bear is a tricky task. They don't know this bear, nor if it was a black or grizzly bear. It also didn't leave behind saliva, hair or scat that can be tested for DNA, which is a common way parks staff identify bears.

"No fingerprints but we can get... DNA," Hunt said.

If they find the bear, they may try to give it a tracking collar and train it to once again become scared of humans. Otherwise, they may watch it to see if it returns to eating berries for food.

"If it's an older bear that's learned bad habits, it can be very challenging to reprogram that or if they've got a substantial food reward," he said.

Bill Hunt is a conservation manager with Parks Canada. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

In this case, the sip of wine likely wasn't substantial enough to make the bear look for more, Hunt said. The area is also set up with scientific monitoring cameras, as the area is home to many bears seeking berries.

In June, a hiker had a close call with a mother grizzly and her cub on the eastern side of the lake's shoreline trail.

He used bear spray on the grizzly when she charged and was knocked to the ground. He received a small bite before the bear took off. 

Parks Canada says all hikers should make plenty of noise while on the trails and carry bear spray where it is easily accessible. 

A full list of closures and other important bulletins is available on Parks Canada's website.

​With files from Elissa Carpenter, Justin Pennell and Sarah Rieger.