Rocky Mountain House reduces temptation for hungry bears

Bears near Rocky Mountain House will be less tempted to amble into town for dinner thanks to a weekend effort to encourage local apple tree owners to pick their fruit.

One of Banff National Park's resident black bears.

One of Banff National Park's resident black bears.

Bears near Rocky Mountain House will be less tempted to amble into town for dinner thanks to a weekend effort to encourage local apple tree owners to pick their fruit.

The inaugural Bare Trees, not Bear Trees campaign was organized by provincial wildlife biologist Chiara Feder to deter ravenous bruins from local properties.

Feder said at this time of year, bears can spend 20 to 22 hours of their day consuming the more than 20,000 calories they need daily to prepare for hibernation. Local apple trees offer a tempting target for the bears, which can polish off 300 apples at a sitting.

The problem is that apple-hunting bears can wander onto acreages or into neighbourhoods, creating the potential for dangerous conflicts for both animals and humans. Two or three bear sightings have been made in the last few weeks.

To raise awareness and help apple tree owners get rid of their bounty, Feder advertised a free service to get rid of apples. Those who called her office in advance could rely on a group of volunteers who were happy to pick and gather apples.

Other volunteers turned the apples into pies, which were offered to those participating in the campaign. Some of the pies will be sold as a fundraiser.

Feder said the first-time event went well, considering there was not a lot of time to advertise. About 10 property owners had their trees and yards stripped of apples, with about 16 cases worth gathered.

“I think we learned a lot in terms of how to organize it better next year,” she said. “I think the best value (with the program) is for people to realize this time of year bears are actively searching for any kind of food they can possibly get.”

Deer also find apples tasty and where there are deer, cougars are often not far behind.

Feder said she plans to launch a bigger effort next year and remind people that it is a good practise to clear trees and yards of apples to deter wildlife.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com