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Buried bear causing a stink near Smith

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Monday, May 21, 2012

The carcass of a bear near Fort Smith has caused a bit of a stink - literally and figuratively.

NNSL photo/graphic

This shallow pit, containing the rotting carcass of a bear, was spotted on ski trails south of Fort Smith on May 12. The carcass had apparently been dug up by wolves. - photo courtesy of Patti Kay Hamilton

Patti Kay Hamilton, vice-president of the Fort Smith Ski Club, found the bear remains on May 12 while walking on the club's trails, about five kilometres south of Fort Smith in northern Alberta.

Hamilton was concerned the carcass might attract other bears and be dangerous for trail users.

It was creating a horrible odour, she said. "I mean just a really bad stench that would almost make you sick to your stomach."

Hamilton said the carcass - mostly bones remained - was about three feet deep in a pit and there were signs wolves had dug it up.

The bear was buried last year by the Pelican Rapids Golf & Country Club after it was shot on the nearby golf course.

"We would have been skiing over it all winter. It's not off to the side at all," Hamilton said.

She noted the smell could attract other bears and they could become aggressive protecting what they consider a food source, adding there were paw prints and other signs bears had already been in the area.

"Potentially, somebody could get hurt or killed if there was a bear protecting it," she warned, noting hikers, mountain bikers, children on motorcycles and runners use the trails.

For Hamilton, the situation brought back painful memories of the death of her friend Mary Beth Miller, a biathlete from Yellowknife. Miller was killed by a bear while running on ski trails in Quebec in 2000.

"That's one of the reasons I stepped forward," Hamilton said. "It would just so bother me if I didn't say anything and somebody got badly injured by an angry bear."

Allan Heron, the newly elected golf club president, said the carcass will be looked after by the club.

"We're going to dispose of it," he said.

The carcass was still in the pit as of May 18, but Heron said it would be removed as soon as possible.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) had advised the golf club to rebury the carcass and cover it with lime, which was done. ENR later advised it should be brought to the Fort Smith landfill.

ENR was only offering advice because the matter is under Alberta jurisdiction.

Heron said the bear was shot last year near the golf course's clubhouse after it had invaded the kitchen.

The golf club president believes the matter of the burial site was blown out of proportion.

"The bottom line is it is wilderness and the thing was buried," he said, noting a wolf had to dig down a long way to uncover the carcass. "That's nature."

The club president could not say exactly on whose land the bear was buried.

The ski trails and golf club are adjacent to each other on leased land.

Hamilton noted the golf club had buried another bear in the same area three years ago, adding it was buried deeper and never dug up by wolves.

Heron said he knows nothing about the other carcass.

Hamilton said she wants the golf club to remove both carcasses and properly dispose of them.

"The golf course can't be killing animals and then dumping them on the ski trails," she said. "There's nothing good about that for any of us."

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