Black bears are ambling into Banff and Canmore in 'pretty unusual' numbers this year

Black bears are frequenting Canmore and Banff more than usual this summer, and wildlife experts say there could be a few reasons for the increase. 

"It's pretty unusual. You do have bears in and around Canmore, but it's typically on the periphery of town," said provincial human-wildlife conflict biologist Jay Honeyman. "You can imagine when a bear shows up in a residential area we definitely are getting phone calls."

Blair Fyten, a Parks Canada wildlife conflict specialist in Banff, can quantify that — an average of about 15 calls a day.

But along with the increase in black bears, they're also noticing a decrease in grizzlies.

"Grizzly bears tend to push black bears out, they take up some of the prime feeding areas so there's competition. In the past, we've had grizzly bears that have killed some of our black bears," Fyten said. 

Honeyman said bear activity in the valley can be cyclic, with the grizzlies influencing the black bears' behaviour.

"I think some of the less dominant bears are finding a bit of security in town away from the larger dominant males," he said.

Or, it could simply be the animals looking for food.

Either way, the increased activity is concerning for both the human and bear residents of the Bow Valley.

Dave Gilson/CBC

"We want to discourage bears from being in town, we don't want them in town," Honeyman said. 

"We've got a healthy bear population, we just have to figure out how to get them out in the areas we want them to be."

With both a late buffaloberry season, and fruit tree season in mid-August, officers will be looking to mitigate any sources of food that will draw bears in. 

Parks staff are reminding people to stay aware, carry bear spray and avoid leaving food or waste out that can attract animals.