Multiple bear encounters over the weekend have prompted the closure of Heiko’s and Tree Sisters Trails near Fernie until further notice, to prevent any further run-ins with wildlife.
WildsafeBC is reminding residents that the Elk Valley and East Kootenay is grizzly bear territory, and encountering one should be expected when in the wilderness.
“This time of year, bears will travel great distances for food. They are in a stage of what we call hyperphagia, and they’re looking to fatten up for the winter,” said WildsafeBC Elk Valley Community Coordinator Kathy Murray. “Wildlife and people share the same habitat, and there were a number of reports of a grizzly sow and mature cubs.”
WildsafeBC said both trails have been closed to prevent further encounters with bears.
In both encounters, it was a group of hikers that came across the bear.
“They were on the trail, about four kilometres away from the Tamarack. They saw the bear about 150 feet away from the trail, and they kept going and the bear kind of snarled at them. In an ideal world, if you see wildlife the best thing to do is stop, turn around and go the other way,” said Murray. “In another scenario, the group deployed their bear spray, but I don’t know when the bear spray was deployed.”
Murray added that bear spray is a useful tool to deter wildlife when used effectively.
“Think of it like a seatbelt, it could save your life, but you need to consider the time to use it. If the bear is 100 feet away and you deploy the bear spray, it’s not going to do too much. If you’re getting bluff charged by a bear, or one encounters your tent or campsite, and it’s within six to nine feet, then that’s your opportunity to deploy the bear spray,” explained Murray.
Videos on the safe use of bear spray can be found of WildsafeBC’s website, and Murray said several education sessions will be held in various places in the Elk Valley.
The first session will be in Fiorentino’s Parking lot in Sparwood at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, then Friday at the Fernie Information Centre at 11 a.m., and a third at 6 p.m. on Thursday, September 17th, in front of the Elkford Public Library.