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Vehicles chasing bears an issue in Crowsnest Pass

Wednesday, 13 October 2021. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

Vehicles chasing bears an issue in Crowsnest Pass
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Due to people chasing bears with their vehicles, these two black bear cubs were separated from their mother and other sibling. While one cub was reunited with its mom after a few hours, it took Fish and Wildlife officers a couple of days to help the other cub get home.   Photos courtesy of Christy Pool

Vehicles chasing bears an issue in Crowsnest Pass

By Jenaya Launstein
Community Reporter

As the fall season advances, bears are chowing down on food and preparing for hibernation. It’s during this time of year that you’ll likely spot bears on the move as they search for something to eat or scout out den sites.

It’s been a hectic season for the Crowsnest Pass BearSmart Association and it was recently made even more stressful when a family of black bears were chased with vehicles and separated.

In the last week of September, several homeowners reported two black bear cubs hanging out in the trees in their yard. While this would usually be considered a normal call, what made it different was that the cubs were crying relentlessly and their mother was nowhere to be seen.

“That’s really odd, to just have a random baby bear cub in your yard crying and crying, and no mom,” says Christy Pool, president of Crowsnest Pass BearSmart Association.

When Christy and Fish and Wildlife officers arrived on scene, they immediately recognized the cubs from previous patrols. Missing from the scene was the third cub and the sow, which is a brown-phase black bear.

The two crying cubs were in different yards and appeared to be stressed and scared.

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Officers were told that two vehicles had been seen chasing the mother bear around earlier that morning. This caused her to flee the area with one cub in tow, while the other two became separated.

“We closed the area, hoping that if we kept it nice and quiet … that either the cubs would come down and go find mom, or that mom would just come and get them,” says Christy.

For most of the afternoon and evening of Sept. 29, the location stayed closed and the public was asked to avoid the area as Fish and Wildlife officers worked. Unfortunately, this proved to be a struggle, as many people ignored the closure and tried taking photos of the cubs.

“It was mind-boggling how many people just walked right past the signs and under the ribbons,” says Christy. “It was super frustrating, because we were trying so hard to keep no movement so that mom would feel comfortable, but it just wasn’t working.”

After a while, one of the cubs decided it was time to come down from the tree. A Fish and Wildlife officer was able to get it across the highway and up into the area that the mother was known to frequent.

The other cub refused to come down and follow its sibling. BearSmart volunteers and Fish and Wildlife officers waited several more hours in hopes that the sow would return, but such was not the case.

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Fish and Wildlife made the decision to tranquilize the remaining cub and transport it to its mother. Later that night, the sow was spotted making her way back on a walking path.

“She was about to come across to where we had the cub originally, and we were just letting her come,” Christy says.

“Normally, we wouldn’t allow a bear just to stroll through town like that, but we had volunteers strategically placed to watch where she went and what she was doing, but not push her.”

Once the sow made it halfway to the cub, someone in a car ignored the nearby volunteers and chased the bear away while honking their horn and screaming at it. The two volunteers on scene were so focused on the sow that they were unable to get the licence plate number.

Over the next couple of days, Fish and Wildlife officers scoured the area for any signs of the mother bear so she could be reunited with her third cub. After many hours of searching, the sow was located.

The cub was transported to the area and seemed to immediately pick up its mother’s scent. Heading east, the cub found its mom and two siblings and the family has been together ever since.

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While the story has a happy ending, the entire situation could have been avoided if people hadn’t been chasing the bears in the first place. Not only is harassing wildlife a chargeable offence under the Wildlife Act, but it also has the potential to cause more issues.

Chasing all wildlife, not just bears, with a vehicle creates extreme stress. This can cause the animal to run into a person or yard, or onto the highway.

“Now they’ve created this conflict of angry bear, stressed out bear, and somebody completely innocent in this whole thing,” says Christy.

In the case of this particular bear family, the cubs were at a greater risk of being hurt or killed by other bears or traffic because the mom was chased away.

When it comes to moving wildlife out of an area, leave it to the professionals. Officers are trained in wildlife aversion and if they choose to use their vehicle to push an animal, they do so at the animal’s pace.

As there are many bears moving around right now, it’s important to respect their space, and avoid harassing and feeding them.

“Just let them be bears and let the professionals handle the moving of them and such,” says Christy.

If you have any information regarding people chasing wildlife with their vehicles, call the Report A Poacher line at 1-800-642-3800 or the Crowsnest Pass Fish and Wildlife office at 403-562-3289.

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