Wednesday, June 22, 2016

2016 Bear Safety Workshop for Ranch Families held near Beaver Mines

Do you see the bear?

Toni Lucas - There were about 50 people of all ages and at least one (stuffed) bear in the woods at Coalfields Community Centre near Beaver Mines on Saturday, June 18 during the Bear Safety Workshop for Ranch Families event.   A large stuffed toy bear was hidden in the caragana bushes as part of the demonstration for the kids who attended to show how difficult it is to see wildlife when the wildlife is trying to stay hidden.   Inside the community centre speakers made presentations to the adults.  All ages were taught how to avoid bear encounters, what to do when you do encounter a bear, how to identify dangerous bear behavior, and how to respond to a variety of bear actions.

Alberta Environment and Parks Wendy Aupers (right)  and Sarah Downey (far back) helping kids develop awareness

Alberta Environment and Parks Wendy Aupers and Sarah Downey showed the younger generation what to look for including tracks, scat, claw marks, and striped trees.  Their message of  'Look Large' to the kids emphasized awareness of your surroundings for a large area, even to the smallest detail, including overturned logs and rocks from bears looking for insects, and the evidence of a variety of wildlife so the kids might know in the future the kinds of situations they may be close to.  "Think like the bear, they are so clever," Aupers told the children.

Jay Honeyman, Alberta Environment

Inside the adults learned bear safety from presentations from Waterton Bioshpere Reserve representatives Jeff Bectell and Tony Bruder, Margo Supplies Jeff Marley, Alberta Environment and Parks Jay Honeyman,  Southern Alberta Land Trust Society Mike Gibeau,  and Alberta Environment and Parks Wendy Aupers.

Imitation bear droppings, part of the awareness excursion

Jeff Marley of Margo Supplies Ltd.
Organizer Tony Bruder said he was very happy with the speakers who presented.  "Jeff Marley from Margo Supplies does bear fencing all over the world.  Lots up north, a lot of fencing off municipal pumps, oil field sites.  He knows what he's doing."  Bruder was also happy the children were getting an education.  "The kids, it's imperative they learn it young.  They're the ones who are walking to the bus at 6:30, 7:00 in the morning.  They have to know how to react when a bear is doing something in the morning.  Wendy takes the kids out and does a wilderness walk with them.  To show what do you look for, in the habitat.  What does it look like when a bear tore apart a log, or flipped a rock, or what's a bear track look like?  She does that fun interactive thing that involves the kids.  It's a really good program for the kids."
Bear resistant refuse bin on display
Although you can never totally eliminate bear attractants on a farm or ranch the workshop helped people identify attractants and reduce them or find ways to make them more difficult to access.  Tony Bruder is the first to admit that 'We raise food' on ranches and that is what most bears are attracted to.  Bear proofing containers from garbage cans, dead stock containers, and grain bins helps reduce the conflict.  One effective way to reduce conflict is to make noise while outside, something humans beings are very good at.  This lets the bear know you are in the area.  Deterrents shown included rattles, sirens, screamers,  bangers, electric fencing, and bear spray. As well as the talks and demonstrations there was a variety of literature available for people to investigate.

Something made clear at the presentations was bears like food, and are smart and curious.  They like to explore, and discover new things.  Food attracts them but so does new things they have not seen, or played with before.  If a bear is exhibiting no aggressive behavior, it may just be investigating their surroundings.  After all the presentations people were taken outside and shown how to properly use bear spray, and a can of bear spray was given out to each family in attendance.  Waterton Biosphere Reserve Chair Jeff Bectell said this was the fourth time they have done a community presentation of this scale in addition to presentations to service groups like 4-H and in schools.

Tony Bruder demonstrating bear spray

Fatal bear attacks are rare. However, one occurred not far from the site of the workshop on August 22, 1998, a 40 year old man named Christopher Kress was killed by a grizzly bear while fishing on the South Castle River near the Beaver Mines campground. Monty Adams, 32, was mauled to death by a grizzly while hunting for sheep near Pincher Creek on September 15, 1979. The last fatal bear attack in Alberta was on May 7, 2014 when a Suncor worker was killed by a black bear at a remote oilsands mine site. Other fatal bear attacks recorded in Alberta: In September of 2014 a hunter named Rick Cross was killed by a mother brown bear when he accidentally got between her and her cubs. A hunter named Robert Wagner,was killed by a grizzly bear near Sundre in 2008. A hunter named Don Peters was killed by a grizzly near Sundre in November of 2007. In June of 2005 a woman jogging in Canmore named Isabelle Dube was killed when the grizzly she at first escaped pulled her from the tree she had climbed and killed her.  In 1977 a 5 year old girl named Alison Muser was mauled by a black grizzly while playing with her sister at Cameron Creek in Waterton Lakes National Park and died in transit to hospital. A 51 year old biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service named Wilf Etherington was killed while relocating a trapped and sedated grizzly at Banff National Park on September 25, 1973. A man named Lyndom Hooper was killed by a black bear while fishing near Cadomin, Alberta on September 6, 1959.  A 7 year old girl named Donna Coates was killed by a black bear while picking berries outside her family's cottage at Suwapta Falls in Jasper National Park.  On Spetmebr 12, 1829 Parks Canada warden Percy Goodair was killed by a bear while on duty in the Tonquin Valley, Jasper National Park.  (source)

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