MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY - Mountain View BearSmart Society programs and public education efforts continue to protect residents and visitors alike, county council heard March 23.
A delegation from the society appeared before Mountain View County council to give an update on recent activities and plans.
Society secretary and wildlife biologist Jane Bicknell said there continues to be considerable grizzly, black bear and cougar activity across the region.
“Bears are moving further east into agriculture land and we are going to be getting interaction between people and bears,” Bicknell said. “The west portion of Mountain View County is prime wildlife habitat and human-bear conflicts will continue to occur. Bears don’t pay any attention to our man-made boundaries and wander wherever they please.
“It’s imperative that the provincial government, municipal governments and individuals all work together to whatever we need to do to reduce the risk of conflicts.”
Mountain View BearSmart Society promotes bear and wildlife awareness through education, public information, and a web-based notification system that alerts people about the presence of bears, cougars and other potentially dangerous wildlife in Mountain View and Clearwater counties.
In 2021, there were 62 grizzly bear sightings reported in the counties, including 29 in Mountain View County. As well, there were 61 black bear, 13 bears of undetermined species, and 13 cougar sightings reported.
Water Valley had the most sightings (27), followed by Bergen (13) and Bearberry (9).
“Human-bear conflicts increased in (Mountain View County) and Clearwater County this (2021) summer and fall because the hot summer reduced the naturally-available bear foods and bears were actively searching for and accessing non-natural foods in subdivisions and campgrounds,” she said.
Both Mountain View BearSmart Society and Alberta Environment and Parks are recommending that a human-bear conflict management plan be developed in each county to help municipal agencies and stakeholders focus on how to mitigate and resolve human-bear conflicts, she said.
“That’s a discussion we would like to have this year,” she said.
Good bear management activities include the deployment and use of bear-proof garbage bins, bear-proof grain storage, dead stock management, electric fencing, and the removal of natural vegetation and fruit-bearing trees and scrubs in rural residential areas and campgrounds, she said.
Seventeen public education events were held in 2021, including bear spray training of county staff and area industry workers.
There are more than 1,100 people on the society's email list.
Two more of the large BearSmart road signs have recently been stolen in Mountain View County, she said.
Coun. Greg Harris commended society members for their ongoing efforts.
“I hope to engage council with those talks on what we could do in our development planning and land use bylaw to more strongly promote to people BearSmart principles,” said Harris, who is also a society member.
The society's 2022 volunteer board is Paul Fraser, Kathy Blain, Sandi Rodger, Bicknell, Harris, Anne-Marie Bertagnolli, Deborah Skeels, Brenda Wagner and Peggy Wigton.
Alberta Environment and Parks wildlife biologist Chiara Feder is the longtime liaison with BearSmart groups in the province, including Mountain View BearSmart Society.
Council received the society's report as information.