Thursday, October 6, 2016

Waterton Biosphere Reserve hosts 2016 Carnivore Projects Tour

Cyr property, tour goers looking at a c-can with a bear proof door

Toni Lucas - Close to 100 people attended the 2016 Large Carnivores and Communities Bus Tour, which was hosted by the Waterton Biosphere Reserve Association (WBRA) on Thursday, September 22 in the MD of Pincher Creek.  The weather was rainy and overcast for the event.  The day-long tour featured 5 stops intended to underline the problems local landowners have with large carnivores and what solutions they are using to reduce conflict with the wildlife in the area.  This area has grizzly and black bears, wolves, and cougars.

Electrified panel fence

Some of the highlights of the tour included deadstock removal information, electric fences, 3D fencing, bear proof doors, grain bins, and other containers.  Speakers included Waterton Biosphere Chair Jeff Bectell, Alberta Environment and Parks Paul Frame,  Dr. Andrea Morehouse and Annie Loosen.  In addition to the speakers there were anecdotes from various landowners.  The tour took everyone out to see first hand a number of mitigation projects held in the Pincher Creek area, There were discussions at each site visited, and an ongoing invitation to talk on the bus during the tour.

Jeff Bectell
Waterton Biosphere Reserve Chair Jeff Bectell acted as the speaker and MC for the day.  "It's about finding this balance between people and nature," said Bectell.  The goal is to improve safety for the humans, minimize losses, and improve compensation while maintaining a diverse and healthy wildlife.  He said his aim is to find a way for the farmers, ranchers and landowners to coexist safely with wildlife, including the predators.  "We try to prevent problems by these cooperative projects, the type you are going to see today."

Sites toured included Clarence and Helen Cyr (C-cans and electricity), Don and Joyce Taylor (electric fencing), Willy Dunbar (electric fencing), Berny and Beryl Zoratti (bear proofed grain bins and hopper),  and BrunoYagos (electricity and C-can solutions).

Electric fencing at the Cyr property
Fencing:  Electric and 3D

Electric fencing has long been used to to keep animals in or out of certain areas.  The electricity for the fences can run on solar power, or 110 volt electrical power.  The  wire used can either be high tensile or stranded wire.  3D fencing is running a secondary parallel fence around the perimeter of the first fence discouraging animals like elk and deer from jumping over a single fence.  Visually it adds a barrier that has the animals considering not only how high they can jump but a mixture of how high, and how far.   Some are now mixing electric fencing with what is called 3D fencing.  When mixed with electric fences this keeps out both the predators and elk from having access to grain or silage bags.  One innovative farm family are now electrifying mobile chicken coops.  The chickens can range within the cage, yet carnivores cannot get to the birds.

Electrified mobile chicken coop

Electrified trailer for food storage


One of the biggest things that attract carnivores is possible food sources.  The Biosphere works to identify issues and find a way of eliminating or containing attractants, so carnivores are not rewarded with food.  Grain bins and their doors, cement pads, hopper bottom bin designs, C-can shipping containers have all been used as options to keep bears out of food bins.  The standard bin doors can be torn off by a determined bear, and once they learn how, they then recognize the bins as a food source.  Some bears will pound on the bins until the joint weakens and the grain comes out.  Other containment solutions include deadstock containers and bear proof garbage bins. Trail cameras do not act as a deterrent, but do help with knowing what animals are in the area, and they provide evidence for claims.

Bectell said the Waterton Biosphere Reserve works within the County of Cardston, the MD of Pincher Creek #9, the MD of Ranchlands, and into the MD of Willow Creek.  To date if a project has been brought to the group for consideration within the area they have been able to partner with the landowner to work toward a solution if they have a history of predators on their land.

Annie Loosen

Alberta Environment and Parks Paul Frame was there to discuss the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan.  He said he has a lot of respect for the farmers and rancher working with the Waterton Biosphere Reserve on pro-active steps for co-existence.  "You people being willing to live with these bears, and trying to pro-actively address this problem is really helping the bear population."

Dr. Andrea Morehouse

Dr. Andrea Morehouse talked about the Grizzly Bear Monitoring Project she concluded for Bear Management Area 6.  Morehouse and her team identified 164 individual grizzly bears from 2013 through 2014 in the area designated Bear Management Area (BMA) 6, essentially the eastern slopes of the Livingstone Range to Highway 3 to the north, British Columbia to the west, and Montana to the south. The results of the project are intended to inform the Government of Alberta's ongoing grizzly bear recovery planning with accurate population estimates (see story here).  Annie Loosen discussed her work with the Black Bear Monitoring Project.  She is using data collected from Andrea Morehouse's study, as the collection phase included both grizzly and black bear samples.  Frame, Morehouse, and Loosen agree that the issues with bears go down dramatically when issues with attractants are addressed.

Paul Frame

Subjects that were discussed included the grizzly bear recovery plan, living in a wildlife corridor and how far animals stray from these corridors, and compensation for lost livestock.  Some of the concerns of landowners include raising their families in a home that is also a job site with additional dangers including carnivores.

Twin Butte Hall

Helen Cyr

Jeff Bectell

Mac Main: 18 head gone missing or found dead this season
Related story:  Waterton Biosphere Reserve hosts Cardston Large Carnivore Projects Tour

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