Wildlife officers are asking the public to refrain from feeding wild animals after a number of bear sightings prompted the GNWT to block off a popular hiking spot near Yellowknife.
On Thursday, the territorial Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) announced that a blockade had been set up at the parking lot for Hidden Lake Territorial Park.
The public should avoid using the Cameron Falls Trail until further notice.
Dean Cluff, a biologist with the department, told Moose FM that’s because a number of bears are becoming increasingly comfortable with people in the area. He suspects the animals are becoming bolder because they’re being fed.
“It sounds like they’ve been feeding on dog food so someone has been providing food for them perhaps out of sympathy because they look skinny,” said Cluff.
“Bears like dog food so we often recommend that if you have pets at a campground, we suggest that they get fed indoors and food isn’t left out because that could be an attractant.”
Cluff says bear sightings near residential areas and campgrounds have been few and far between this summer.
That’s despite a sighting near Yellowknife’s Parker Park earlier this summer and an incident in mid-August when wildlife officers were forced to kill a bear in Yellowknife’s Range Lake area.
According to Cluff, we can probably expect more sightings in the fall as adolescent bears leave their mothers and become more active before hibernation.
If you happen to come across a bear, Cluff says you should stop what you’re doing, stand still and stay calm.
You should then assess the situation and see if it’s aware of your presence. If it is, the last thing you should do is run.
“If a bear does see you and you run, it just elicits a predatory response and it may want to chase you,” he said.
“If the animal is close, you want to tell it that you’re human so we suggest speaking to the bear in a calm voice while making yourself bigger and then try to find a way out.
“Either give the bear a route to escape or try to retrace your path and get out.
If a bear is getting fed though, Cluff says that can change the equation and make the animal more unpredictable.
“It loses its fear of people and then it’s a whole new ballgame,” he said. “We want to make sure these bears don’t get used to humans.”
Cluff says there have been some close encounters with bears this year but no attacks to speak of.
If you happen to see one near a residential area or campground, call ENR’s wildlife line at (867) 873-7181.