As a retired problem wildlife specialist with the provincial government, I feel it is my responsibility to warn Albertans of a potentially deadly hazard in the West Country this spring, which could have tragic consequences for those innocently enjoying our public lands.
Alberta Fish and Wildlife allows the baiting of black bears and wolves for sport hunting in much of the West Country. This practice is regulated and bait locations must to be posted with warning signs. Of course, anyone encountering these signs should leave the area immediately.
My concern relates to the now common hobby of wolf snaring by Alberta trappers. Readers may not be aware that the West Country is divided up into dozens of registered trap lines, with trappers allowed to bait wolves so they can be snared. The foothill areas from west of Calgary north to Grande Cache is especially popular for wolf snaring because the Alberta Wild Sheep Foundation and local trapper associations provide a wolf bounty of about $300 per head.
Wolf bait sites usually consist of a pile of road killed ungulates or other carcasses, around which up to 100 snares are set. One of the problems with this practice is that trappers can put their carcass dumps wherever they please and are not required to post any warning signs. Naturally, these locations are strong bear attractants at this time of year.
Anyone out enjoying the country could easily and unknowingly stumble onto one of these bait sites with tragic consequences. I am afraid that it’s just a matter of time before someone is needlessly maimed or killed.
If you are out enjoying the back country this spring, be extra cautious. Watch for raven and magpie activity or the odor of rotting meat—signs that could indicate a wolf bait station and that bears will likely to be in the area. Be especially careful if you have a dog along, as it may warn you of a bait or a bear, but unfortunately, a bear might chase the dog back to you. The dog could also get caught in a snare which was not picked up. Pay attention and be safe.
Rocky Mountain House