Bear Awareness

Bear at Train Station

Bear awareness saves lives

All visitors, residents and businesses in the Banff townsite have a responsibility to be aware of human behaviours that create risks for people, and are dangerous to grizzly and black bears. Coexistence with the abundant wildlife in Banff National Park means we have to help keep bears out of the townsite.

Bears that find sources of food in the townsite may not come out alive.

Although officials will implement aversion conditioning to discourage bears from returning to town, sometimes the lure of easy food is too great. After getting into human food, a bear will continue to seek out more human food rewards, and this can make them bold and aggressive.

Even in an urbanized setting, a bear is extremely dangerous. Aggressive or repeated encounters may result in the bear being relocated or killed.

Your role in keeping bears out of town

 Keeping bears away from town and away from human contact can save their lives. People may have a false sense of security in the townsite with many other people around. Bears are often very near to the town and require very little enticement to venture into neighbourhood streets. All it takes is a whiff of a promising meal or an interesting smell. Please help:

  • Ensure human food and garbage are not accessible to wildlife.
  • Dispose all food and drink containers, wrappers, household garbage and recycling in the proper wildlife-proof bins.
  • Make sure the bin's door closes completely.
  • After you have been sitting in an area, check that you are not leaving anything behind when you leave.
  • Call the Town of Banff if you see garbage bins that need emptying.

If you see garbage, litter or food waste left outside, please report it to the Town of Banff emergency operations line, 403.762.1240. After hours, press 2 for an on-call emergency number. This is an emergency number. We treat saving human and bears as an emergency. You can also report garbage or other issues to the Town of Banff using the online Action Request.

Banff residents have extra responsibilities

Bears are driven by food. They are intelligent, resourceful and learn fast. They have a keen sense of smell. They will take every opportunity to gain access to food sources and once they discover a food source, they will return again and again. Sows will teach their cubs to access it. 

  • Keep barbecues clean 
  • Avoid keeping animal attractants like bird feeders 
  • Avoid planting fruit-bearing trees, and always ensure any berries or fruit trees have fruit removed 
  • Keep dogs on leash and always attended

Do not leave ANY household material, including unwanted furniture, outside waste bins. We all know food attracts bears. But some people may not know that the human smells on furniture can be equally alluring.

Did you know...

The Town of Banff has a special program to pick up any unwanted items and big furniture and appliances for the reuse centre or transfer station. Call 403.762.1240 during the day to arrange a pick up of your large items.

What to do if you see a bear in town:

  • If you see a bear, stay calm. Yelling or sudden movements may trigger aggressive behaviour. 
  • Do not run or cycle away rapidly. This could trigger predatory instincts and pursuit. (Bears can run 50 metres in 3 seconds, or 60 km/h, faster than a race horse for short distances, and faster than any human, uphill or downhill.)
  • Get your bear spray ready, with the safety off and pointed at the bear.
  • If a bear rears on its hind legs and waves its nose about, it is trying to identify you. It can identify hundreds of plants and animals at a distance by smell alone.
  • Back away slowly, while facing the bear and your bear spray ready to discharge.
  • Go to a safe place - inside a vehicle, your residence or a building.
  • Never move towards a bear. 
  • When safe, call Banff National Park dispatch at 403.762.1470. Call Parks Canada for all sightings of bears in town and in the national park.

More bear aware tips are available from Parks Canada.