As our communities and access to landscape stretch further into valuable bear habitat, the potential for conflicts increase. Alberta BearSmart was launched alongside the Alberta Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan in 2008 as an initiative to promote bear awareness and deliver conflict prevention strategies to people living, working, or recreating in bear country. This program strives to reduce human-bear conflicts and facilitate public stewardship in Alberta. Alberta BearSmart’s three main goals are to:
- Keep people safe
- Help bear populations survive
- Reduce property damage
Educating and shifting peoples’ mind frames from reactive to more proactive and preventative strategies is key in reducing human-bear conflicts. A reduction in the number of human-bear encounters, number of bear mortalities or relocations, and reduced annual costs of property damage are the desired outcomes of a successful Alberta BearSmart program.
In the Northwest region of Bear Management Area 1 (BMA 1), Alberta Environment and Parks staff provide Alberta BearSmart information to various industry and community groups, at local trade shows, through signage, communications mail outs and on utility bills, and offer bear spray demonstrations.
Since mid-May 2017 there have already been 23 presentations across the Lower Peace Region alone, ranging from bear spray and awareness sessions for industry and municipalities, to information booths at local community events, to social media posts and school presentations. Local radio communications, newsletters, and emails to hunters have also proven to be useful ways to distribute Alberta BearSmart information.
It has already been a busy year, with many bear sightings around the region. With breeding season coming to a close and bears actively searching for food to prepare for winter, it is important to practice extra care when in bear country. Carry bear spray (and know how to use it!), keep dogs on leash, stay in groups and make noise while in bear country, and pack-in and pack-out garbage are all ways to reduce negative interactions with bears. You can be sure that Alberta BearSmart educational efforts will continue to be showcased in the Northwest to help reduce human-bear conflicts and keep people and bears safe!