A bear closure sign at a trailhead. File Photo/Rocky Mountain Outlook

A hiker’s close encounter with a grizzly bear feeding on a carcass has forced the closure of Ribbon Lake trail in Kananaskis Country until further notice.

Alberta Parks said the hiker was uninjured in the incident which occurred on July 2. The agency made the decision to close the trail to protect the safety of the bear and visitors to the area.

“A bear closure is in place for the area around Ribbon Lake, including the trails frequently used to access sources of water for fishing. This closure area is marked with tape,” said Bridget Burgess-Ferrari, Alberta Parks spokesperson. “Several trails remain open, including the trail to the campground, Guinn’s Pass and Buller Pass; however, a warning is in place for these areas.”

While there was no evidence to suggest the bear acted aggressively, Bow Valley WildSmart program director Nick de Ruyter said it’s important to recognize signs of a nearby bear to prevent a surprise encounter.

“If you see a fresh pile of scat, that means there’s a bear in the area so either make more noise and be extra alert, get your bear spray ready, or consider turning around and finding another way,” he said.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people that have been in encounters before and they didn’t take signs seriously, and often those signs are scat and tracks.”

When bears are focused on feeding, whether it be on a carcass, berries or other food source, they’re not paying as much attention to their surroundings, de Ruyter noted, which can increase the chance of a surprise encounter where the animal may act defensively.

“You need to be making a lot of noise and it’s always good to travel and stay together as a group so you’re more intimidating to a bear, and you’re making more noise as well,” he said.

A bear warning is also in place for Chester Lake trail and the surrounding area after a group of hikers reported a potential bluff charge by a grizzly on July 3.

After conservation officers spoke to the hikers, it was determined the bear remained at a distance but appeared to be agitated and was attempting to get away from the hikers.

“There was not enough evidence to suggest a bluff charge and bear spray was not deployed,” said Burgess-Ferrari, adding the warning was put in place proactively and will remain in place until further notice.

Alberta Parks cautions visitors to Kananaskis Country and the Bow Valley to expect bear encounters and give wildlife space. Bears are more active as buffaloberries – an important food source – are beginning to ripen in many areas.

“Never approach a bear – stay at least 100 metres away at all times,” said Burgess-Ferrari. “A bear may charge if it is feeling stressed or fears for its safety.”

Alberta Parks asks all bear sightings to be immediately reported to 403-591-7755. Advisories can be monitored at www.AlbertaParks.ca.

By Jessica Lee, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 07, 2023 at 17:41

This item reprinted with permission from   Rocky Mountain Outlook   Canmore, Alberta
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