A conservation officer with Alberta Environment and Parks admits there was a ‘very probable’ sighting of a juvenile black bear at the J.J. Collett Natural Area north of Lacombe last week.
Nick Mandrusiak says they received the call on April 26 and after an initial investigation, put up signs warning of a possible bear in the area.
“I received a call from a member of the public stating that he saw what he believed to be a juvenile black bear while walking the trail system,’ explains Mandrusiak. “It sounded like someone who knew what they were talking about, this wasn’t an inexperienced person. It sounded like according to this person, that it was just a young bear in springtime out in the woods foraging for food.”
Mandrusiak says he and another conservation officer visited the location of the possible sighting and found food sources such as Saskatoon berries and choke cherries in the area, in addition to some bear scat, making what he and the other officer felt to be a reliable sighting in a very uncommon location.
He says they put the bear warning signage in place the next day on April 27 to help raise awareness for the public
“We spoke to some people who were using the trail system and they were fairly surprised that we were following up on a potential bear sighting,” recalls Mandrusiak. “One of the things we always tell people is the whole province is bear country. You can be out towards the Saskatchewan border and you’re still going to have, certainly in fewer numbers than say out west of Nordegg, those bear populations.”
However, Mandrusiak says no further sightings came in for the week so the bear warning signs came down on Thursday.
“No further sightings tell me either that this animal has moved-on or if there is a resident bear at J.J. Collett, it’s leaving people alone,” says Mandrusiak. “It is being a well-behaved animal, it is holed up, it is not bothering people, it is not bothering pets, it’s not getting into garbage, it’s not sniffing around vehicles. If that bear hasn’t moved-on, it’s being a good neighbor.”
In the meantime, he says if you’re out enjoying one of Alberta’s wilderness areas, remember that you’re sharing these wild spaces with all types of creatures, so be aware of your surroundings.
“Be clean, keep your dog on a leash and if you’re out in the woods, make a bit of noise just so you’re not startling any animals off of their food source or separating them from their young or what have you.”
In addition, Mandrusiak says if you’re out in a natural area and encounter a situation where a conservation officer would be required, like a public safety issue for example, you can call the Alberta Parks Enforcement line at 403-350-5066.
“We do have our own version of the ‘Report a Poacher’ line,” he explains. “It’s a Parks enforcement line, it’s a 24 hour phone number, it goes right to our provincial control centre and it gets your issue relayed to the closet available conservation officer.”
“This sighting is uncommon,” admits Mandrusiak. “Bear sightings through central Alberta are something within the realm of possibility, so folks just need to make sure that they know that and they prepare accordingly.”
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