Wildlife corridor use for recreational purposes on the rise

One topic for discussion at a bear workshop in Canmore is how wildlife corridors designed to help move animals through the Bow Valley are being used by humans for recreational purposes.

'There's a lot of concern right now,' says a senior biologist with the Alberta government

Wildlife corridors in the Bow Valley have become increasingly important to maintain healthy wildlife populations. (

Alberta's Bow Valley is a world class recreational area, but it is also a prime area for human and bear confrontations.

About 100 wildlife specialists from around North America came to Canmore for the Western Black Bear Workshop to learn how to solve problems that arise when bears and people meet. 

About 100 wildlife specialists from around North America came to Canmore for the Western Black Bear Workshop. (CBC)

One major problem highlighted during a tour of the area is the increased use of wildlife corridors by humans.

Corridors were created to allow wild animals to pass through the valley, and not for recreation like cycling and walking dogs.

"There's a lot of concern right now, that with the high levels of human use, that the wildlife use of these corridors is going to start to drop off," said Jon Jorgenson, a senior biologist with the Alberta government.

Hearing about the successes and failures of the Bow Valley's wildlife corridors brought Daryl Ratajczak to Alberta from Tennessee.

"We have expanding bear populations and obviously we have tremendously high human populations, and so conflict management is a growing area that we really need to learn more about," said the chief of wildlife for the State of Tennessee.

'I think it's been difficult for all of us'

Wildlife biologist Jay Honeyman says they have an aversion program where they try to teach bears how to use the wildlife corridors.

"When the landscape is changing on an annual basis, I think it's been difficult for all of us — animals included — to try and make sense of it all," he said.

Wildlife specialists say the Bow Valley provides a unique learning environment as the town creates a bottle neck in the valley for animal movement.

"Canmore is trying to maintain this mountain motif, this mountain type of appeal, and all of these urban green spaces we're driving through right now are security and food for bears," Honeyman told workshop participants during the tour.

Organizers of workshops, like the one in Canmore, are hoping to help build a professional community dedicated to minimizing the risk for wildlife in the area.