Park officials caution visitors as bears prepare for hibernation and elk rutting starts

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Alberta Parks closed Rawson Lake and Sarrail Ridge, southwest of Calgary, until further notice because a grizzly bear and her cub have been frequenting the area.

It’s also the start of elk rutting season, which means the males will be challenging each other for their shot at breeding with female elk. The male elk become increasingly aggressive and protective of the females, which can be dangerous for humans who get too close or stand between a male and female.

Blair Fyten, human-wildlife co-existence specialist in Banff National Park, said male elk have been heard bugling, which is an indicator that they’ve started to rut.

“It’s quite the spectacle to find a bull elk with a harem of cows, listen to the bugle and watch them challenge other bulls, we get people who visit to see this but they need to be given distance,” said Fyten.

Rutting season lasts until approximately mid-October. People are encouraged to stay at least 30 metres from all elk, never get between the animals and don’t park vehicles near them, Fytensaid.

After they’ve finished breeding, the male elk are tired and have usually lost weight, so they turn their attention to bulking up to survive the winter.

If an elk gets too close or becomes aggressive, the best things to do are act dominant or find sturdy cover.

Staying alert of the surroundings is important — looking and listening for signs of bears, elk and wolves. Making noise, travelling in a group, carrying bear spray and keeping pets on a leash are other actions that can be taken to prevent dangerous encounters.

Also at this time of the year, wolf pups are big enough that they start travelling and hunting with their pack.

“Just give animals their space. It’s the end of summer so they’re trying to put on as much fat reserves as possible, so we don’t want to stress these animals or frighten them from their food sources,” said Fyten.

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