Creeks and river valleys are nature's highways. They follow the path of least resistance as they meander down out of the mountains and across the plains, and provide shelter to many creatures. It's not uncommon for animals to follow creeks for great distances, but sometimes those animals can find themselves in an unwelcoming environment if they follow a creek long enough.
Bear sign is commonly found at the Lee Creek Valley Golf Course, but at 2:52pm on Thursday September 8th, a call was received at the Town office reporting a black bear wandering behind the homes on 8th Avenue West. A young Black bear with brown fur had crossed the highway from the campground and was exploring the grassy hills on the banks of Lee Creek in Town.
The Community Peace Officer was the first to respond to the bear sighting, and kept eyes on the bear while RCMP and Fish and Wildlife made their way to the scene. Approximately an hour later, the bear had made it's way through Lions park, and was cornered by officers behind the Ice and Rec Centre.
"Open the door!" An observing resident could be heard shouting while dashing across the street as the bear ran up the hill and climbed a tree in the yard of 332 1st St W. The Officers quickly surrounded the bear, and a commotion could be heard as RCMP used their sirens to keep it up in the tree. Once the bear was safely contained, the Fish and Wildlife Officer was able to prepare his tranquilizer.
Fish and Wildlife then waited for the bear to down climb the tree enough so it wouldn't fall too far when the tranquilizer took effect, but he also couldn't let the bear down climb so far that it could jump to the ground and take off running again. The bear was pretty comfortable in the tree for a while, but after a bit of a wait started to make it's way closer to the ground. That's when the waiting officer finally sedated it.
After a few moments, the bear finally nodded off and fell from the tree to the soft ground beneath. It was a relatively small black bear, estimated to be only about two years old, which would mean it'd likely have barely weaned off its mother. This is the time of year when bears start fattening up for the winter, and competition with larger bears is likely the reason the big cub wandered out of the woods all the way into Cardston.
Only a couple nights after the first sighting, a second bear was spotted wandering around town in the middle of the night. On Monday morning, Sept 12th, the bear was reported in the back yard of a residence on the corner of 3rd Street and 3rd Ave West. This bear was much more mature than the first, and weighed approximately 450 pounds. It had discovered an apple tree ripe with apples and had gorged itself on fruit. Quite pleased with the abundance of food in the garden, the mild mannered bear decided it was going to set up camp and took a nap by a tree. The community peace officer and RCMP simply watched the bear sleep until the Fish and Wildlife arrived and sedated it while it slept on the ground.
Both bears were relocated to a "greenzone", which could be anywhere in their natural habitat or on crown land in the wild.
Cardston's District Fish and Wildlife Officer, Arlon Barz informed the Town Office that this is the time of year when bears are fattening up for winter, and seeking out as many calories as they can find. A lack of abundant food sources in the mountains, or competition with other bears will bring them out into inhabited areas, especially if there are attractants in the area such as ripe fruit on trees, pet food left outdoors, open compost piles, and garbage that is left accessible to animals.
Anything that emits an odour can attract bears, they have an acute sense of smell that can pick up scents from miles away. This time of season fruit is ripe on the trees and beginning to fall to the ground. A bear can hone in on the smell of fermenting fruit from a great distance and follow its nose all the way to the source. The same is true for garbage, dirty BBQs, and pet food left outside over night.
Managing attractants is the most effective way to keep bears out of town. If there's nothing in town for them to eat, then they'll keep on moving and search for food elsewhere.
For more information on how to manage attractants on your property, please read, Preventing Problems Between Bears and People.