There have been some recent reports of bear sightings in or very close to Swan Hills, including at least two grizzlies and one black bear. Nestled in the heart of prime Alberta bear country, Swan Hills and the surrounding area do get visited by our furry neighbours from time to time. With this knowledge in mind, what should one do if they see a bear in town?
The Grizzly Gazette contacted Curtis English, District Fish & Wildlife Officer with the Whitecourt Office, for guidance on this topic.
English recommends calling the Report A Poacher line at 1 (800) 642-3800 to report any bear sightings within town limits. After receiving the report, the nearest Fish & Wildlife Officer will be dispatched to investigate. They may call the person who made the report to gather information about what they saw, where the bear was sighted, and what it was doing. Once the officer has assessed the situation, they will decide on which course of action to take. In some cases, they may check out the area. Depending on the situation, Fish & Wildlife may respond with education, increasing awareness, or trapping and relocating a problem bear in more serious cases.
While posting about a sighting on social media is an effective way to notify other members of the community, it is also important to report the incident to Fish & Wildlife by calling the Report A Poacher line. English encourages people to use social media to notify others about a sighting, explaining that these posts are also a reminder to everyone to be bear aware.
With the knowledge that there appear to be bears remaining in the area, English encourages people to avoid taking walks or jogging at dusk, at night, or at dawn and try to do these activities in pairs or groups. He also recommends carrying bear spray and having it ready to go at a moment’s notice; on a person’s belt instead of stashed in a backpack.
It is also essential to try to manage possible attractants for wildlife. Avoid leaving pet food out and wait until garbage collection day to put your garbage out.
English said, “Fish and Wildlife compliments the community around Swan Hills on their excellent Bear Smart practices. The town does an excellent job of reducing conflict with bears.” He explains that with the number of bears in the surrounding area, he would expect to hear about bear problems in Swan Hills just about every day, but he doesn’t even get calls about bears ripping up someone’s garbage.
Please stay safe out there and remain bear aware. Remember to report any bear sightings within town limits to the Report A Poacher line at 1 (800) 642-3800.
By Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Jun 07, 2023