Proactive Solutions Reduce Bear Incidents

Proactive Livestock Management

Proactive Solutions

Livestock depredation by carnivores such as bears, cougars and wolves is a major concern for agricultural producers in Alberta. Between 2009 and 2012, over 1/3 of all grizzly bear relocations have been as a result of bears attacking livestock. See Grizzly Bear Conservation in Alberta Annual Reports. There are preventative actions one can take to reduce the chances of bears attacking livestock. One example is the use of electric fence.

In 2012 Bear Conflict Solutions (BCS) partnered with a landowner in southern Alberta to try and prevent grizzly bears from predating on his ranched elk. This rancher had lost 15 elk over a two year period to grizzly bears. The bears had learned to dig under his 8 foot high elk fence. This situation became a losing proposition for grizzly bears as well as 4 different bears were trapped and relocated from this property. In discussions with officials from Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD), electric fence was identified as a potential proactive solution to this problem. As a result, the landowner took the initiative to erect a single strand electric fence around his 3 mile stretch of fenced elk corrals. BCS agreed to provide some financial support towards the project. The fence was completed in the summer of 2012 and there have been no grizzly bear incidents since that time.

Attractant Management 2012

Proactive Solutions

Unsecured attractants are a major concern for residents living and working in bear country. In southwest Alberta, livestock feed continues to be a main cause of human bear conflict. It is often the result of inadequate grain storage such as grain sheds with holes in the walls/doors or faulty doors on metal grain bins. There are systems in place to address these deficiencies.

In 2012, Bear Conflict Solutions (BCS) partnered with Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) and a southern Alberta rancher to address the continuing problem of bears accessing unsecured grain on his property. This area had seen a number of grizzly bears accessing unsecured grain resulting in the relocation of at least two grizzly bears over the last few years. BCS, in partnership with ESRD and the landowner, purchased a used sea canister to secure the grain. The landowner covered the costs of picking up the container and retrofitting it to meet his needs. The end result is a secure grain bin that has resulted in no grain-related human–bear conflict since the container was installed in July 2012.

Program Update:

Greater Yellowstone Coalition along with Bridger Teton National Forest in Montana have started using the retrofitted shipping canisters based on information and advice about this program. Click to read this story, Turpin, Pacific Creek get bear-proof boxes, in the JH News and Guide. Additional requests for containers have been received as well as information requests from Montana State Parks for issues with black bears they’ve had on the Smith River. Good ideas are spreading.


A lesson to remember: Why I now carry Bear Spray

I never carry a second shot in my pocket but I did that day thankfully. With no bear spray or other means of defense, my last chance came down to reloading my bear banger and firing a second shot. This was no bluff charge. I was nearly 500 metres away when the bear spotted me. In the time that I drew my bear banger from my right pants pocket, the animal had already sprinted down through a cliff band and through a shallow creek, water bursting into the air.

The first shot was flawless: it exploded above the ground with a loud blast between me and the grizzly. The bear should have run away. Instead, it crouched with its belly on the ground, ears back and eyes intently fixed on me. Within a heartbeat, the animal – now clearly a predator – resumed its sprint toward me.

I met this grizzly bear at the pass between the Akai and Prophet Rivers on August 9, 2009

There is so much to tell about those precious few seconds before contact that I cannot adequately express here. The most pressing task was to reload and fire again. Sounds simple. I’ve used bear bangers for 25 years. Now consider that I had forded the icy Akai River countless times that morning. It was raining. I had just taken off my soaking gloves to take some pictures of the vast meadow. In short, I was really cold and could barely use my frozen hands. However, this wasn’t my only challenge.

When the grizzly bear jumped up and started running for me again, my brain must have unleashed a tsunami of adrenalin. My perspective changed. Suddenly, it was someone else who desperately needed to reload their banger. The rain stopped. Time became unimportant. I noticed that this other person removed the spent shot but couldn’t thread the next one. Again and again, they fumbled with the device. I became aware of my daughter’s face and recognized that she was pleading with me to come home. I noticed, as though from a great height how beautiful the alpine meadow was with the clouds starting to break up, and how amazing this place truly was! A feeling of acceptance flooded in.

Heat emerged from the centre of my chest and sprung out through my hands and in a flash there was only one perspective again and I realized that I hadn’t pulled the firing pin back. In one smooth movement I pulled it back, threaded the second shot, and discharged the banger right over the bear’s head. The bear was a few breaths away when the shot detonated behind and startled it.

As the bear turned and ran, I realized that I had just saved my life for the time being but that this aggressive bear would likely return in a moment. I sprinted toward higher ground and retrieved my last two shots out of the top of my pack at the first opportunity. Fortunately, the grizzly bear didn’t return but I knew that I had to alter my trip plans with only two bear banger shots remaining and 15 days to go. Instead of continuing northwest to resupply at an outfitter’s camp, I decided to packraft down the Prophet River to reach the Alaska Highway within 5 days – the quickest way home (to see my daughter).


Jay Honeyman, Biologist and Executive Director of, tells me that each encounter can be as individual as the bear itself. You never know; it could be a well behaved bear but that even they have their bad days! The banger wasn’t a poor idea but they can have unpredictable results including fire hazard. They aren’t the best option for close distance encounters either. If I had bear spray ready to use in this instance, I could have given the bear a good blast before any contact. With its momentum, the bear may have run into me but would have quickly broken contact with burning pepper in its senses. Since I was able to use a bear banger twice, I’m sure I would have been able to effectively use bear spray in this encounter.

This was a good lesson for me. I no longer travel in bear country without at least carrying pepper spray. I work and recreate alone in bear country. Traveling in a group isn’t always an option but I do make more of an effort now to join others. Since this incident, I have encountered another grizzly bear while on a solo trail run. This time, as soon as the bear huffed at me, the spray was ready in my hand. I spoke firmly to the bear and backed off but I think it was more interested in the square kilometre of ripe buffaloberry that surrounded it.

Dustin Lynx

For research on the effectiveness of bear spray click the following link:  Efficacy of Bear Deterrent Spray_Smith et al_JWM_2008


NCC Conservation Speaker Series: Resolving human-bear conflict

NCC Conservation Speaker Series invites you and your guests to:

Resolving human-bear conflict with Jay Honeyman

Thursday February 16, 2012

Calgary Golf and Country Club

Reception at 6:30, Presentation to follow

RSVP to Linda Stenvall by February 10, 2012 or phone 403 817-2100


Jay Honeyman has been working with grizzly bears for over 25 years and received his MSc in Environmental Management from Royal Roads University in 2007. He has worked with the Wind River Bear Institute assisting agencies in various provincial, state and federal government agencies in resolving their human bear conflict issues. He is the Executive Director of Bear Conflict Solutions Institute. He currently works as a Bear Conflict Biologist for Alberta Sustainable Resource Development in Canmore, Alberta.

NCC’s Conservation Speaker Series is made possible through the support of Bill & Kathy Friley & Family for your enjoyment at no cost to you and your guests. Please enjoy this opportunity for mingling, light refreshments and a special presentation.

Please note that business attire is required at the Calgary Golf & Country Club – no blue jeans. The Calgary Golf & Country Club is located at Elbow Drive & 50th Ave SW Calgary.

Nature Conservancy of Canada – Alberta Region


“GigaPanning” Grizzly Bears

Can you find them? These bears have an interesting story to tell. The mom emerged from her den with two cubs this spring. We managed to get them in this gigapan photo in September 2011; the cubs are 9 months old and big – close to 100 pounds. The fourth bear in this photo is believed to be from last year’s offspring – a two year old who had gotten separated from her mom. She showed up in August of this year and has been travelling with the rest of the family group this fall. While taking this shot, we had the opportunity to watch all four of these bears rough house and play together endlessly in the snow – they were having fun. 

Attractant Management program reduces human-bear interactions

SECURING SUCH UNNATURAL ATTRACTANTS as garbage and birdfeeders does not necessarily mean your bear problems are over. Bears are on a continual search for food and if natural foods are available within communities or other developed sites, bears will come. These bears, as with garbage and birdfeeders can become habituated and/or food conditioned, resulting in bears being relocated or euthanized out of concern for public safety. Removing the natural food source within developed areas will encourage bears to move to other more natural areas to feed. This can reduce the level of human bear interactions, reducing public safety concerns and associated human caused bear mortality. By removing natural attractants within developed areas, grizzly bears will be encouraged to move to other areas such as existing wildlife corridors and habitat patches. This will reduce human bear interactions and associated human caused bear mortality. This will contribute to the goal of maintaining habitat connectivity and reducing human caused wildlife mortality in the Bow Valley.

The Bow Valley and Rocky Mountain parks west of Calgary, Alberta have been experimenting with this concept for a number of years now. Bear Conflict Solutions, in cooperation with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (ASRD), Alberta Tourism Parks and Recreation (ATPR), the Town of Canmore and Municipal District of Bighorn and with funds from the Kananaskis Legacy Fund through Alberta Ecotrust, continue to remove buffalo berry and other berry producing shrubs from developed sites in the Region. This program is testing a bioherbicide on berry producing vegetation. The bio-herbicide is intended to impede regrowth of the freshly cut vegetation, thereby negating the need to return to the area in the future to recut regrowth. This will result in a more cost effective method of attractant removal than is currently in place. Currently, areas will grow back every 5 to 7 years, requiring recutting and additional funding resources.

The objectives of this program are:

  • To reduce grizzly and black bear activity within developed sites including townsites, campgrounds and picnic areas. This will reduce human-bear interactions, improve public safety and the resulting human caused bear mortality
  • To impede regrowth of natural bear attractants within developed sites through the cutting and subsequent application of a bio herbicide
  • To educate the public on the benefits of removing natural attractants from both public and private lands i.e. their homes

Innovative Bear Bin Loaner program involves community

Bear Conflict SolutionsIN PARTNERSHIP WITH the Alberta Conservation Association and UnBearAble Bins Inc., Bear Conflict Solutions instituted a “Bear Resistant Container Loaner Program” for the community of Bragg Creek and area in 2006 in an effort to reduce incidents of bear human conflict related to unnatural foods. Bear resistant garbage bins were made available to residents of the Bragg Creek area to prevent bears from accessing resident’s garbage, dog food, bird seed and other unnatural bear foods. This program was extended to the MD of Foothills in 2008 through the financial support of Alberta Sustainable Resource Development and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. This program is now operating in multiple communities in Alberta.

The objectives of the program are:

  • To purchase and disseminate bear-resistant containers to residents experiencing bear problems resulting from onsite artificial attractants;
  • To monitor the outcome of container use in terms of eliminating bear attractants and reducing problem bear activity;
  • To educate residents regarding the effective management of bear attractants; and
  • To encourage residents to take proactive measures to eliminate bear attractants and reduce the potential for bear-human conflicts in the long-term.

The Bear Bin Loaner program represents an innovative approach that proactively engages community members in bear management, encouraging residents of rural communities to be good stewards of wildlife. Working with and empowering residents of rural communities to take the initiative in managing attractants is a fundamental element of the bear-resistant container program. Results of this program are available in this report. CLICK TO VIEW OR DOWNLOAD (166 KB)

Bear Hazard Assessments highlight potential for problems in communities

Bear Conflict SolutionsTHE INSTITUTE is a specialist in developing and producing Bear Hazard Assessments for communities in bear country. These assessments identify areas of high use bear habitat and areas of past and present human-bear conflict. They also identify future potential problem areas based on forecasted human use and development and provide recommendations on how to reduce conflict in the future.

In 2008, a Bear Hazard Assessment was compiled in conjunction with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development for Canmore, Alberta and the surrounding Bow Valley lands east of Banff National Park. It is one component of multiple “Bear Smart” initiatives within Canmore and the Bow Valley that began in 2005. CLICK TO VIEW OR DOWNLOAD (1.1 MB)

The question of whether or not wildlife and development can coexist in the Bow Valley is discussed in an article by Karsten Heuer (2009) entitled “The Big Squeeze”. CLICK TO VIEW OR DOWNLOAD (507KB)

The Institute recently completed a Bear Hazard Assessment for Bragg Creek, Alberta for Alberta Sustainable Resource Development as part of the provinces’ ongoing Alberta BearSmart Program initiative. CLICK TO VIEW OR DOWNLOAD (1.6 MB)

Photo: D. Chadwick monitoring 2 young grizzly bears in NW Montana. Photo by Derek Reich