Following an unusually warm winter, bears are about to leave their dens in search of the nearest food source and Environment Minister Barry Penner is reminding B.C. residents that it is up to them to remove items that can attract bears to their properties.
"The most effective and natural way to prevent conflicts with bears in urban areas is to put away any food attractants, such as garbage, bird seed, compost and fruit," said Penner. "The City of Kamloops was the first B.C. community to achieve official Bear Smart status, and I encourage other communities in the province to follow this excellent example and work towards achieving Bear Smart status."
Designed by the Ministry of Environment in partnership with the British Columbia Conservation Foundation and the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, the Bear Smart Community Program is a voluntary preventative conservation program. The goal of the program is to address the root causes of bear-human conflicts, reduce the risks to human safety and private property, and reduce the number of bears that have to be destroyed each year.
The ministry's Conservation Officer Service received more than 12,000 reports of bear sightings between April 1, 2009 and March 31, 2010. During that time, conservation officers attended more than 1,300 incidents when bears were acting aggressively or public safety was an issue. As a result, 175 bears were relocated while 265 others had to be destroyed.
British Columbians are encouraged to prevent bear-human conflicts by adopting the following practices:
* Keep garbage secured in the house, garage or shed until pick-up day and return the containers to the secure site once they are emptied.
* Pick ripe and fallen fruit daily and remove any unused fruit trees.
* Use bird feeders only in winter.
* Keep the ground free of seeds and nuts.
* Clean the barbecue grill after each use, and store it a secure area.
* Bring pet food dishes inside, and store the pet food inside.
* Don't add meat products or uncooked food to compost, turn it regularly and keep it covered.
* Work with your neighbours and municipal government to create a Bear Smart Community.
If residents spot a bear, they are advised to remain calm, keep away from the bear and bring children and pets indoors, if possible. People should never approach a bear and should not run from it, as bears can move very quickly. Once a bear has left the area, residents should check their yards to ensure there are no attractants available.
The public is encouraged to report human wildlife conflicts that threaten public safety or result in significant property damage by calling the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line toll-free at 1-877 952-7277 (RAPP) or visit the RAPP website www.rapp.bc.ca
For more information on bears, bear-human conflicts, and the criteria necessary to reach Bear Smart status, www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/bearsmart/bearsmintro.html
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