Bear sighting in Cochrane results in temporary park closure

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A black bear sighting in Cochrane Aug. 23 resulted in the temporary closure of the town’s Riverfront Park, along the Bow River.

According to Laurie Drukier, the Town of Cochrane’s senior communications advisor, a resident spotted the bear on a pathway while jogging at around 1 p.m. The jogger reported the sighting to the municipality’s bylaw officers, who notified Alberta Fish and Wildlife.

Under that office’s recommendation, Drukier said, Town staff erected barricades to restrict access to the area Aug. 23, while Fish and Wildlife staff worked to shoo the bear away.

“By 9 or 10 a.m. the next morning, we had confirmation from Fish and Wildlife that the bear had moved away from the area, and Parks staff took down the barricades,” Drukier said, adding the Fish and Wildlife office has tips on its website to help residents limit bear attractants.

According to Nick de Ruyter, the program director for the WildSmart community program, late summer is berry season – when bears are out searching for food before going into hibernation.

“Generally, at this time of year, the buffalo berries start drying up and falling off,” he said. “Once berries are ending, they still have two months where they need to eat and get fatter for the winter, so they’ll be looking for food.”

Though it is rare for bears to enter municipalities, de Ruyter said, they may do so in search of food. According to de Ruyter, common attractants that can draw bears into a developed or urban setting include unsecured garbage, greasy barbecues, pet food, pets and bird feeders – but he said the biggest attractants at this time of year are berry bushes and fruit trees.

Considering Cochrane is located in “bear country,” de Ruyter suggests residents and visitors carry bear spray when walking the trails in or around town. He said the most important thing to do if you come across a bear is remain calm.

“Definitely don’t run away – we never run away from any wildlife,” he said. “If you have bear spray, pull it out and have it ready to go. And then talk to the bear in a calm voice. Let it know you’re a human, so they recognize the human voice.”

He added that if you’re in a group, to stay close together and back away slowly.

“You don’t want to make eye contact with the bear, but you can still look at the bear and back away slowly… and leave the area,” he said.

Lastly, de Ruyter added, if the bear charges or gets too close, apply a short burst of bear spray directly to its face.

“A good one-to-two-second burst right to the face of that bear will give you time to get away,” he said.

The bear sighting in Cochrane came just three days after a cougar was reported near the town’s RancheHouse conference centre.

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