The Athabasca Oil Sands Area (AOSA) is bear country. Human activities have become more frequent in bear country, and as a result, bear habitats have become more fragmented, and encounters between bears and humans more common.
Everyone plays a role in preventing encounters to help keep neighbourhoods and bears safe.
In 2021 there were approximately 240 bear occurrences, with 35 percent of bears being handled (19 were relocated and 66 were euthanized).
It is important to note, that on average, in the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo region, approximately 30 percent of all the black bear occurrences received require a black bear to be handled by the officer. A bear is considered handled when it has been trapped or chemically immobilized, then it is either relocated or euthanized. 70 percent of black bears reported are never handled, and dealt with by providing educational messaging, promoting or forcing the removal of attractants, and closing public areas.
The residential urban and rural categories combined accounted for 67 percent of occurrences, resulting in the handling of 47 bears. The oil sands camps and sites combined accounted for 15 percent, while the remaining three categories accounted for 19 percent.
The oil sands industry has worked with Alberta Fish and Wildlife for two decades to address this ongoing issue. The Oil Sands Black Bear Partnership Program (OSBBP) was established in 2002, and industry has provided financial support to FWES in the Wood Buffalo region to assist with human bear conflict mitigation.
Since the primary recurring issue is commercial and residential waste management, all community members have a role to play and should limit or remove bear attractants, especially those living in known “bear hotspots”, by:
- Properly storing garbage and recycling bins, preferably inside a garage or shed, if available.
- Only placing curbside collection bins out the morning they’re scheduled to be picked up.
- Regularly cleaning garbage and recycling bins.
- Washing containers before disposing of or recycling them to reduce odours.
- Sealing food waste in air-tight containers or bags before disposing.
- Picking up litter and not leaving food in parks, trails and residential areas.
- Storing pet food inside and feeding pets inside.
- Ensuring barbeques are cleaned regularly.
- Not planting edible fruit trees and bushes.
- Being mindful of bird feeders. Residents living near treelines should only put birdfeeders out from November to March.
More information can be found here.