Bears are leaving their dens in search of the nearest food source and B.C. residents are urged to be "Bear Aware" to help reduce bear-human conflicts.
Last year, the Ministry of Environment's Conservation Officer Service received 23,240 reports of bear sightings (between April 1, 2010 and March 31, 2011). During that time, conservation officers attended 2,827 incidents in which bears were acting aggressively or public safety was an issue. As a result, 120 bears were relocated, while 675 bears had to be destroyed.
Though there has been a downward trend over the last 15 years in the number of problem bears killed, last year's number was higher because of poor availability of natural foods, which meant bears were searching out other, non-natural food sources.
The most effective and natural way to prevent conflicts with bears in urban areas is to put away food attractants such as garbage, bird seed, compost and fruit. In communities where attractants are managed properly, there has been a decline in related bear-human conflict and the number of bears that have to be destroyed.
In communities around the province where there are high incidences of human-bear conflict, residents can learn more about avoiding conflict by talking to their local Bear Aware Community Co-ordinator. Bear Aware is an educational program, owned and managed by the British Columbia Conservation Foundation (BCCF). Bear Aware is designed to prevent and reduce conflicts between people and bears in communities.
Last year, the Ministry of Environment provided funding to Bear Aware in the amount of $357,000 over two fiscal years (2010-11 and 2011-12). This year, $181,400 of the ministry funding will be used to support 22 community co-ordinators in 24 communities.
All communities that receive support have also themselves made a commitment to the program, both through cash and in-kind support of the program. The 24 communities and regions benefiting from the 2011-12 Bear Aware funding are: 100 Mile House, Bella Coola, Castlegar, Coquitlam, Cumberland, Elk Valley, Fernie, Golden, Invermere-Radium, Kamloops, Kaslo, Kimberley, Mission, Nelson, Vancouver North Shore, Powell River, Prince George, the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, Revelstoke, Rossland, Squamish, the Trans-Border Region (the rural areas between Nelson, Creston and Cranbrook), the Thompson-Nicola Regional District and Whistler.
The Bear Aware program provides a consistent educational package to those communities that wish to pursue "Bear Smart" status. This ensures that communities do not have to "re-invent the wheel" when implementing an education program and the content follows government standards. Bear Aware education has proven to be an effective tool to decrease conflicts and an important part of the Ministry of Environment's Bear Smart Community program.
Designed by the Ministry of Environment in partnership with BCCF 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 human-bear conflicts, reduce the risks to human safety and private property, and reduce the number of bears that have to be destroyed each year.
Terry Lake, Minister of Environment:
"This year, we're supporting Bear Aware programs in 24 communities around the province. Bear Aware is a valuable educational program that helps reduce human-bear conflict in communities around the province. Not only does the program reduce conflict between humans and bears, it reduces the number of bears that have to be
destroyed as nuisance bears."
Edward Illi, chief conservation officer:
"We know from experience in Bear Smart communities and with those working towards Bear Smart status that proper attractant
management significantly reduces human-bear conflict. This not only improves public safety, but also provides officers in these communities with more options in dealing with conflict bears. The Conservation Officer Service wants to stress the importance of public safety by preventing encounters with bears that are easily avoided by attractant awareness. Being Bear Aware is all about the public's safety."
Frank Ritcey, provincial Bear Aware co-ordinator, British Columbia Conservation Foundation:"It is because of the support of the Ministry of Environment that we have been able to carry out the valuable Bear Aware program in so many B.C. communities. People wanting to learn more about how to be Bear Aware or how they can support or bring the program to their community are encouraged to visit: www.bearaware.bc.ca"
* British Columbians are encouraged to prevent bear-human conflicts by adopting the following practices:
o Keep garbage secured in the house, garage or shed until pick-up day and return the containers to the secure site once they are
o Pick ripe and fallen fruit daily and remove any unused fruit trees.
o Use bird feeders only in winter.
o Keep the ground free of seeds and nuts.
o Clean the barbecue grill after each use, and store it in a secure area.
o Bring pet food dishes inside and store the pet food inside.
o Do not add meat products or uncooked food to compost. Turn it regularly and keep it covered.
o 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.
o People should never approach a bear and should not run from it, as bears can move very quickly.
o 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 at: www.rapp.bc.ca
More information about how to be Bear Aware can be found at: www.bearaware.bc.ca
For more information on bears, human-bear conflicts and the criteria necessary to reach "Bear Smart" status, visit: www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/bearsmart/bearsmintro.html
A Mother and 2 cubs that had to be put down in Terrace last fall.
Bears #2 and 3 on Nisga'a Highway 2 days ago.
Bear at "Hole in the Wall" - Rupert Highway.
2 Grizzlies photo by Eileen Puge - Kitimat Highway.