Calgary councillors – and residents in a SW community – are looking for solutions after four black bears were euthanized earlier this week.
Alberta Fish and Wildlife has confirmed to LWC that the bears, a black bear sow and three cubs, were captured Oct. 28 and euthanized.
A Fish and Wildlife statement indicates that they’d been receiving daily calls about the bears since early October. The bears were seen in different locations around the southwest Calgary community of Discovery Ridge. The reports were initially just sightings, but then turned into reports of the bears getting into garbage.
On Oct. 22, Fish and Wildlife closed some areas of nearby Griffith Woods Park and they set two traps. The bears were then captured.
“The bears were heavily food-conditioned, and had been spotted getting into garbage for over four weeks,” read the statement from Fish and Wildlife.
“Food-conditioned bears associate people with food, which poses a serious risk to public safety as the association of people with food can lead to people being hurt by hungry bears.”
The province said the action wasn’t taken lightly. They evaluated the situation in accordance with their black bear response guide. That document is reviewed annually, they said.
Community task force to be set up
Discovery Ridge Community Association (DRCA) president, Anil Tahiliani, understands that it wasn’t an easy decision to destroy the bears. He said it’s an outcome no one wanted.
Over the past three weeks, they’d only been able to update community members on the bear situation via social media. They’ve provided education and information on being bear safe, but they recognize not everyone will adhere to it.
Now, the DRCA will strike a small volunteer committee this coming Monday to review action they can take to be bear safe and limit the potential for wildlife conflict. Though, Tahiliani said, while there have been bear sightings in the past, this is the first time they’ve gotten into trouble in the community in the 15 years he’s lived there.
“Our biggest thing is we don’t want, not only the wildlife to get hurt, but we don’t want individuals or especially kids to be attacked by wildlife because they feel comfortable around people,” he said.
“I think it’s always a trade-off between the safety of the animals versus the people living there.”
Tahiliani said much of the concern is confined to the homes directly backing on the Griffith Woods Park than homes that are deeper into the community.
He’s hoping the committee, working with Fish and Wildlife and city bylaw officials, can muster up a solution. It will be a four-to-six person committee, he said, with the mandate to explore the options available.
“Given that we’re heading into winter here, it might be a plan that may not be enacted until the springtime when wildlife is more active,” he said.
Looking at next steps
Ward 6 Coun. Richard Pootmans said the destruction of the bears is a very sad situation.
He said his ward office is looking at options to manage human/bear conflict. Coun. Pootmans said any potential bylaw changes would typically apply citywide, adding another layer of complexity.
“(It’s) Likely a discussion involving Fish and Wildlife, waste and recycling and bylaw officers – I think all three are going to have to participate in a discussion,” Pootmans said.
In Canmore, Alberta’s waste and recycling bylaw, it states that the disposal of waste is not allowed unless in an animal-proof container or enclosure. The aforementioned receptacles must adhere to the Town of Canmore’s Engineering Design and Construction Guidelines.
That town also recently added rules to their community standards bylaw prohibiting the planting of “fruit-bearing vegetation” that may attract wildlife.
Pootmans said all similar options are on the table.
Coun. Kourtney Penner’s Ward 11 is also on the city’s southwest border and encompasses wildlife sensitive areas like Weaselhead Flats. It’s also just north of Fish Creek Park.
On Tuesday afternoon, Penner said this negative encounter highlights the need for an ongoing discussion around urban biodiversity. She said that it’s a difficult comment to make, but there was willful ignorance on the part of some citizens around actions that could have prevented this outcome.
“This isn’t the first and this isn’t going to be the last bear encounter that we’ve had in Calgary, some of that education has been there already,” she said.
“It’s that continued reinforcement.”
Tahiliani said the community wants better outcomes for wildlife, whether it’s coyotes, cougars or bears. After all, they do live right next to a wildlife corridor and the park space, he said.
“We’re always going have some wildlife there. The question is, how do we manage that better,” he said.