An inordinate amount of black bear activity at the Parks Canada site in Queens County has prompted the temporary shuttering of Kejimkujik National Park Seaside.
The closure of the Port Joli, Queens County area site, off St. Catherine's River Road, is aimed at protecting visitors and wildlife alike, as well as takes into consideration the safety of staff, Parks Canada indicated in a prepared statement.
Seaside's temporary closure does not impact the inland Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site, which has been open since June 1 with limited visitor access and basic services.
"Bears mate every second year; mom will, sort of, kick out the year-olds and those year-olds can be a little problematic," Chris McCarthy, the resources conservation manager at Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site, told LighthouseNOW. "They get a little lost and they can be a little goofy and curious, it's really important to make sure they don't get habituated to people."
Between the tracks, scat, and staff sightings of "a few bears" a day, it's apparent Smokey and company are using the park's trail system. Staff also think the four-legged mammals are attracted to a shoreline seaweed wrack as a food source because wild berries haven't ripened yet.
With fewer people around and a good wrack snack, the curious, intelligent and adaptable bears are taking advantage of the situation.
Parks Canada said the black bear population at Kejimkujik Seaside is healthy, thanks to the largely undisturbed habitat and abundant food supply. The increased activity being observed is not unusual, and it's expected the bears will move away from the shoreline as food becomes more plentiful in the woods.
There have been no incidents between bears and humans and staff want to keep it that way.
"Typically, a mix of people and bears usually ends up in bad news for the bears," McCarthy told LighthouseNOW. "People need to understand and respect that they are in wilderness areas and bears are wild animals and we need to keep them wild."
McCarthy said the circumstances will be reviewed on a week-by-week basis before decisions concerning re-opening are made.
This is the second time in as many years Kejimkujik National Park Seaside closed to visitors for a while because of a spike in bear activity.
McCarthy wondered if factors such as climate change may make the temporary closure this time of year a new normal.
"We don't know all the pieces that control their habitat," he said.
"We know, for sure, bears are demonstrating normal behaviour; they will forge along the shoreline in the spring."