Bears and fire lookouts

Strategies are in place for reducing human-bear encounters at Alberta's wildfire lookout tower sites.

Fire lookouts and bear conflict

127 wildfire lookout sites are located throughout Alberta's boreal forest and along the Rocky Mountains. Each site is staffed by a lookout observer whose job is to watch for wildfire all day, each day, generally from April to October.

Wildfire lookout sites are isolated and the staff that work them must be prepared for a wide range of possibilities, including an encounter with a curious bear.

To help prevent conflict with bears, Wildfire staff with Agriculture and Forestry have adopted a number of Alberta BearSmart recommendations for many of their sites, key amongst them is the installation of electric fencing.

Electric fencing and bear deterrence

Electric fencing has been shown to deter bears, reducing the chance of immediate conflict between people and the bear and teaching the bear to stay away from people and their things in the future.

Permanent electric fencing has been installed at priority wildfire lookout sites, enclosing the residences, lookout towers, outhouses and generator buildings. Materials for the fence were selected for their portability and ease of repair.

High visibility painting on the fence posts alert backcountry visitors to be cautious year-long. In winter, the fence is de-energized and the wires lowered to ground. This helps prevent potential entanglement and injury to wildlife as well as reduces the likelihood of snowpack damage to the fence.