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65 reported black bear encounters in Wood Buffalo since the start of April

FILE - In this Sept. 24, 2014, file photo, a young black bear climbs down from a tree near Woodland Middle School in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. (Tess Freeman/Coeur D'Alene Press via AP, File)

FORT MCMURRAY (660 NEWS) – There have been 65 black bear encounters involving 82 bears reported by Alberta Fish and Wildlife in Wood Buffalo since the start of April.

According to Tyler Murphy, District Fish and Wildlife Officer with Alberta Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Services, most of these encounters happen in residential areas because the animals are attracted to unsecured garbage cans, bird feeders, and fruit trees.

Residential areas bordering tree lines, like those along Timberline Drive, Beacon Hill Drive, and the Abasand neighbourhood are considered bear “hot spots” in Fort McMurray, as are the Birchwood Trails and golf courses.

As stated in a press release from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, eight bears have already been captured this year, with four being relocated and four being euthanized.

“Although relocation might be an option in many cases, it isn’t necessarily less fatal for the bear,” said Murphy.

“This is especially true in an area such as Wood Buffalo, where the population density of black bears is high, and every relocated bear is going to have to compete for new territory. For young bears or sows with cubs, this can be especially challenging, and potentially fatal. Putting down a black bear is generally the last resort.”

Murphy said prevention is key to reducing bear encounters and advises residents to remove attractants, be aware when using local trails, and report any sightings.

“When you encounter a bear, the best thing to do is give it space,” said Murphy.

“If you see one bear, always assume there might be two, as it might be a sow with cubs. Most of the time when a bear notices you, it will simply run the other way. Likely, the safest route for you is the way you came, so back up slowly. Always keep your eyes on the bear and don’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself.

“If the bear starts to approach or show interest in you, you should grab and prepare your bear spray. You can also use your whistle or air horn at this point to try to scare the bear away. Bear spray is a last resort and is only effective at close range. After the bear has retreated, look for a safe place to move inside and report your encounter.”

More details can be found HERE.