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Black bear stalks clay cliffs

One of her dogs barked, then she saw the bear.A woman was descending the clay cliffs near the airport with her two Karelian bear dogs on Friday…

One of her dogs barked, then she saw the bear.

A woman was descending the clay cliffs near the airport with her two Karelian bear dogs on Friday around 4 p.m. She had to make a wide circle to avoid the bear, and ended up on Wood Street.

A bear warning sign posted in the area had been removed the day before.

“I had some signs up all along the clay cliffs at all the access points probably on Tuesday of last week,” said Tony Grabowski, manager of enforcement and compliance with Yukon Conservation Officer Services.

“We ended up taking them down on Thursday afternoon because we believed the bear had left the area,” he said.

A brown-coloured black bear was spotted at 6 a.m on Wednesday morning heading west across the Alaska Highway, towards Hamilton Boulevard.

The female hiker’s bear sighting on Friday was followed up with an RCMP call around 7:30 p.m. A bear was wandering at the end of Hawkins Street.

Another call came in at 9:45 p.m. The same bear was now on the clay cliffs across from the Robert Service campground.

“I looked around for it, but couldn’t find it,” said Grabowski, who had been driving along the south access road at the time.

He now believes that the clay-cliffs bear has again moved out of the area — maybe this time for good.

A new electric exclusion fence around the Whitehorse landfill, and increased public education has reduced problem bears over the past decade, said Grabowski.

“As a result, they’re wild bears. They’re not causing human-wildlife conflicts like they used to. They’re just present.”

The bears we’re seeing around town now are here for the forest foods such as soapberries, he said.

One homeowner at the south edge of town, on Drury Street, said that it looked as though a bear had been in her yard and on her porch overnight Thursday.

Grabowski advises all homeowners in the Whitehorse area to keep food and garbage indoors, and to regularly clean their outside barbecues.

A week ago, a number of bear sightings were also reported along the Millennium Trail on the Riverdale side, resulting in one forced relocation.

A brown yearling was spotted behind the skateboard park on Saturday, July 21.

Around 9 p.m. that night, the bear was treed, shot with a tranquilizer dart, and taken for a ride out into deeper woods.

Another walker spotted a mom and cub together around 5 p.m. that Saturday, closer to the fish ladder but still on the Riverdale side of the trail. The two bears also appeared to be brown black bears.

In the past few weeks, a number of bears have attacked bikers and hikers in BC and Alberta. A Clinton, BC, man, out cycling with his dogs, escaped with a bite. A couple, also on bikes, were chased by a grizzly sow in Banff after startling its cubs.

A female cyclist was found dead near Invermere on July 22. Searchers saw a black bear hovering over her body, but couldn’t tell if the bear had been responsible for her death.

While bears are out and looking for food, it is a good time for Yukoners to re-educate themselves on how to first avoid and, second, manage bear encounters, Grabowski said.

If you do happen upon a bear, don’t startle it, don’t approach it, and slowly back away, he said.

Leave the area, and then call your local conservation officer detachment to report the sighting.

“Personally, I don’t go anywhere in the wilderness without either a firearm or bear spray, and I don’t think it should be any different for anybody hiking the trails around town,” he said.