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Parks officials fed up with people feeding bears in Banff

Bear-feeding incidents in Banff National Park has led Parks Canada officials to voice frustration and concern over heightened wildlife-human contact amid an expected heavier influx of visitors this summer.

In a tersely-worded bulletin Thursday, Parks Canada officials stated it’s imperative no more human feeding of  black bears in the Lake Minnewanka area occur after one of the bruins accessed food carelessly left at a day use concession stand.

It’s believed the bear was involved in two previous food incidents in the area in the past few weeks that sent back country campers fleeing.

“It is absolutely critical these bears do not receive ANY more food rewards in the form of food, garbage or recycling materials which one of them has been actively seeking out,” it states.

Educational efforts seem to have fallen on many deaf ears and could endanger the lives of food-habituated animals, said Parks Canada ecologist Jesse Whittington.

“We spent a lot of time and effort last summer and this spring to make people know how to behave and we’re disappointed,” said Whittington.

He said an expected influx of visitors fueled by free park passes to celebrate the nation’s 150th birthday has led Ottawa to beef up its conservation and patrolling staff in the mountain parks, he said.

“We’ve hired more staff to try and reduce the chances of wildlife becoming food-conditioned, a lot more people patrolling the area teaching people how to behave,” said Whittington, noting other recent incidents of animal feeding and reckless photography in the mountain parks.

“It’s absolutely essential people recreating in our national parks give wildlife space…it only takes wildlife to feed on human food a few times to be totally focused on it.”

Minnewanka’s second parking lot was closed to install a bear trap on Monday and on Wednesday, two black bears were caught, ear tagged and coerced away from the area, said Parks Canada officials.

It’s thought one of the snared bruins was at the centre of all three recent incidents.

While the area bruins are conditioned off of human food, a bear warning will continue in the Minnewanka area and Two Jack Lake campgrounds.

And backcountry campsites along Minnewanka’s shores are closed although the trail leading to them remains open.

Concerns over hordes of tourists has spilled over into Kananaskis Country, said Nick de Ruyter of Bow Valley Wildsmart.

“We’re already noticing it here, the overflow from the parks where the hotels are all booked up,” said de Ruyter.

“Any time you have more people coming in, the chances of having more encounters goes up — it’s definitely a concern.”

De Ruyter said he shares Parks Canada staff’s frustrations over the cavalier antics of some visitors around wildlife.

“It’s frustrating…I’m not sure if they know or they don’t care,” he said.

And the time to pay attention has definitely arrived, said de Ruyter, listing off a spate of bear warnings and sightings in the Canmore area, from Quarry Lake to the Nordic Centre to the Legacy Trail bike path connecting Banff and Canmore.

“There’s just a lot of bears around and they’re looking for food and the easiest food they get is along the roads,” he said.

“It’s going to be an interesting, busy summer.”

BKaufmann@postmedia.com

on Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

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