Alberta Fish and Wildlife officers have responded to a handful of calls about black bear sightings in Strathcona County this month.
 
On June 14 a resident reported seeing a bear wandering between properties on Township Road 514 and Highway 14. The animal, likely hungry and looking for something to eat, left the area after wildlife officers arrived at the scene and encouraged it to move on.
 
Officers received another call from Strathcona County the next day, this time about a bear getting into some compost bins. A third report came in from the Antler Lake area on June 17 when a resident noticed a bear rummaging for food in some garbage containers on a residential property.
 
Brendan Cox, spokesperson for Alberta Fish and Wildlife enforcement branch, pointed to the common thread linking the three cases.
 
“Bears are very opportunistic feeders. So they're going to eat anything they can find, from toothpaste to ground squirrels. So they will get into anything that's available for them.”
 
Cox said that while bear sightings are more common in other parts of the province, especially closer to the foothills and in the boreal forest area, county residents need to always be mindful of the possible presence of the large mammals.
 
“Here in Strathcona it's certainly more rare than a lot of those other places, but it's not unheard of,” Cox said, adding that it’s a good idea for people to be bear smart no matter where they live.
 
“In basically every corner of the province it's best practice to clean up any garbage on your property and to put your garbage out the morning of pickup rather than the night before, because then it gives animals much less time to get into it and there's less risk that an animal will be attracted to it.”
 
Cox recommends using airtight wildlife-resistant garbage containers to keep bears away. He also suggests property owners remove other food sources bears might be attracted to, including fruit trees and bushes.

“If you can't remove them, we'd encourage you to pick that ripening fruit as soon as possible, store them in a wildlife-resistant airtight container and pick up any other fruit that falls on a daily basis.”
 
Bears will also seek out seeds spilled from bird feeders. Cox suggests residents keep bird feeders full only during the winter months when bears are hibernating.
 
Bears who persistently roam residential areas in search of food may become problematic enough that relocating the animals elsewhere becomes the only option. But moving food-conditioned bears to new areas is not always the best solution, as they may continue to seek out unnatural food sources in their new homes.
 
“You can't really change that behaviour in a bear,” Cox said.
 
Relocated bears who have trouble establishing themselves in new territory may starve to death or be killed by a more dominant animal. Cox pointed out that it’s best to make sure relocation never needs to happen.
 
“That means making sure there are no attractants and that the bear doesn't get food conditioned in the first place. And that's the best way to go for both humans and for bears.”
 

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