Crit­ters

En­joy­ing a healthy snack af­ter a long win­ter’s nap

Our Canada - - News - by Richard Go­erg,

Kananaskis Coun­try, a park sys­tem sit­u­ated to the west of Calgary, is well known for its pop­u­la­tion of griz­zly and black bears, as well as many other wildlife species. It’s a great place for out­door en­thu­si­asts and I visit the area when­ever pos­si­ble look­ing for wildlife to pho­to­graph.

On one lovely spring day, with new plant growth show­ing along the shoul­ders of a high moun­tain road, I snapped a photo of a young griz­zly who had found abun­dant grass and dan­de­lions for a ful­fill­ing meal (above).

In early spring, a griz­zly’s diet is pri­mar­ily veg­e­tar­ian and con­sists of grass, roots and emerg­ing tree buds and leaves.

In sum­mer and fall, griz­zlies re­vert to an om­niv­o­rous diet, which can include the young of elk and deer, as well as ants, ter­mites, var­i­ous in­sects and small mam­mals. They will also eat car­rion and road­kill, of­ten be­com­ing very ag­gres­sive when pro­tect­ing a ma­jor food source or feed­ing area.

By late fall, this young bear will eat a large amount of wild berries in or­der to build up body fat for its win­ter sleep. Berries are pre­dom­i­nantly found in the lower park­land ter­rain, ar­eas that are fre­quented by hik­ers and bik­ers.

Bears do not like shar­ing these feed­ing ar­eas with hu­mans, which re­sults in wildlife con­trol of­fi­cers an­nu­ally clos­ing trails and recre­ation ar­eas.

Win­ter fur is still thick on this fel­low; it’s so dense that you can’t spot the GPS track­ing col­lar at­tached to its neck. Stud­ies are cur­rently be­ing con­ducted re­gard­ing the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween Al­berta wildlife and hu­mans. There is con­cern about con­tact be­tween bears and hu­mans, due to the bears feed­ing in lo­ca­tions pop­u­lar with campers and hik­ers.

In sum­mer, bears prefer feed­ing in gully bot­toms, wet mead­ows, fields and on road­sides. Peo­ple should be ex­tremely cau­tious in these ar­eas, make lots of noise if trav­el­ling through them and carry a can­is­ter of pep­per spray. An even bet­ter idea is to try and avoid these ar­eas en­tirely if vis­i­bil­ity is poor. Be­sides be­ing for­tu­nate enough to en­counter griz­zly and black bears, I’ve come across bighorn sheep and elk, as well as mule and white­tail deer. I’ve also pho­tographed smaller mam­mals such as foxes, coy­otes, por­cu­pines, wa­ter­fowl and rap­tors.

As a pho­tog­ra­pher, I’ve found that early morn­ing and dusk are the best times to ob­serve wildlife, and the scenic land­scapes in Kananaskis are spec­tac­u­lar. I use a dig­i­tal cam­era with a zoom lens that al­lows for panoramic shots and close-ups.

It’s safest to take pho­to­graphs from a car win­dow if you are close to bears or mam­mals with their young. Try­ing to get close to wild an­i­mals to ob­tain a cell phone image is dan­ger­ous; en­joy them from a safe distance.

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