A large, mature grizzly bear has been feeding on crab apples in residential yards in the town of Banff, and bluff charging people in the area. A black bear has also been feeding on berries in a mountain ash tree in a hotel grounds just northeast of town.
The grizzly kept returning to residential yards near the north-end Banff neighbourhood, despite continuous efforts by Parks Canada wildlife staff to haze the bear away from the unnatural food source and north of town. With a property owner’s permission, Parks Canada staff cut down a crab apple tree and had fallen fruit collected to remove the attractant.
Over the past few days, the wildlife staff have been working through the day and night to haze both bears away from these human-cultivated food sources.
With a recent bylaw change within the town of Banff, municipal enforcement officers now have the authority to issue an order to remove a tree that has proven to attract bears to feed on its fruit.
“Nobody in Banff who remembers the tragic loss of Bear 148 wants to see another bear relocated or euthanized due to easily avoidable human activity such as growing an apple tree in town,” said Michael Hay, Manager of Environment for the Town. “We have a program to pay for the full costs of removing fruit trees on private property and replacing with a non-fruit-bearing tree, so we can help people make responsible choices.”
Bear 148 was a large grizzly who frequented the Banff town site as part of its range. Due to close contact with people, in 2017 it was relocated to 500 kilometres northwest of Banff. The six-year-old female grizzly was shot and killed a short time later by a trophy hunter near McBride, B.C.
Last month, during a blitz of residential yards across town by municipal and Parks Canada staff, five homeowners have agreed to remove their fruit trees this week. The Town is coordinating this work with a local contractor, so no effort is required on the part of the residents.
“We encourage all Banff homeowners to remove their fruit trees to help protect our local bear population and prevent potentially dangerous wildlife encounters,” said Hay.
Bears smell the trees at this time of year as the fruit begins to ferment. Wildlife officers say it is unlikely these bears would discover these trees by chance, but rather they are attracted by the smell. Bears have an extremely powerful sense of smell, many times more effective than humans.
Parks Canada has removed berry shrubs on the edges of town, but many homeowners are unaware of the problem their fruit trees are causing.
Property owners interested in the free program are asked to email the Town’s environment team at email@example.com for information/support.