Be bear aware as bruins roam the valley

Over the last couple of weeks, many residents in the Valley have posted photos of bear sightings – either in the backyard, walking down the street or tipping over garbage cans.

Conservation officer Warren Chayer said while it is not uncommon to spot bears in the area, a lack of precipitation has resulted in plants and food sources for bears to dry up, forcing them to look elsewhere.

“They’re governed by their stomachs,” Chayer said. “Things are starting to dry up and they’re always looking for food.”

Bears will go where it is easy for them to access food, both in the wild and residential areas. The beginning of autumn also means the fruit trees and bushes, such as apples, pears, plums and blackberries, are ready to harvest and are already falling to the ground, causing enticing smells for all kinds of local wildlife.

As a result, Chayer said, it’s important to practice good bear habits.Keep garbage indoors or in a secure container and put out for collection as close as possible to pick-up, instead of being left outside. Bird feeders are an attractant for many animals such as squirrels, deer and bear. Another attractant many may not think about, said Chayer, are unutilized fruit trees.

“Let’s consider, maybe, chopping those trees down if they’re fruit-bearing and we never use them and we have no intention of using that fruit,” he said. “Put an ad out, ‘Free apples to pick,’ or put up a sign and get those picked.”

He noted bears are smart. If they find an unguarded bird feeder, an open barbecue with some dinner left behind, an easy-to-access garbage can or forgotten fruit trees while roaming the streets or snooping in backyards, they’ll make it a habit to return for more.

“They lose all fear,” said Chayer. “They let their natural defences go down because the urge to get food is more than the urge to be left alone.”

However, if they realize they can’t get anything, the bears will move on, he added and suggests everyone do their part to ensure the bears can’t get to certain food sources.

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service will conduct an enforcement audit in some areas for attractants. A dangerous wildlife protection order can be issued if people aren’t managing their attractants in a matter that is compliant with the Wildlife Act.

“It does take a little more effort, but it’s only for a few months every year,” Chayer said. “We gotta toe the line and if everybody does it, then the bears (aren’t) getting any rewards…we really need to stop it before it starts.”

In the fall, common bear behaviour includes hanging out more frequently near rivers, lakes and streams (as they may be looking for fish making their way upstream), and they can tend to be more defensive when foraging for food — if you see a bear in the backyard, stay inside.

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