With bears seeking out non-natural food sources, Environment Minister Terry Lake is spreading the word to British Columbians to do what they can to control bear attractants and reduce conflicts with bears.
The main cause of human-wildlife conflicts in B.C. is access to non-natural food sources. Bears that learn how to get at exposed pet food, ripe fruit, improperly stored garbage, dirty barbecues or composts become conditioned and will continue to return to the area.
British Columbians are encouraged to prevent human-bear conflicts by adopting the following practices:
* Keep garbage secured in a bear-resistant container or 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 in a secure area.
* Bring pet food dishes inside and store the pet food inside.
* Do not add meat products or uncooked food to compost. Turn it regularly and keep it covered.
* 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 no attractants are available.
The Conservation Officer Service (COS) is the primary responder to human-wildlife conflicts where there is a risk to public safety, conservation concerns or where significant property damage has occurred. Recent changes to the Wildlife Act give Conservation Officers the ability to issue a $230 ticket or notice for a court appearance to residents who do not secure attractants. Residents who intentionally leave out items that attract dangerous wildlife could also be issued a Dangerous Wildlife Protection Order. Failure to comply with an order carries a $575 fine.
In communities where attractants are managed properly, there has been a decline in related human-bear conflict and the number of bears that have to be destroyed.
In 2011-12, the COS received approximately 37,500 calls regarding human-wildlife conflicts. Of those calls, approximately 23,800 involved human-bear conflicts. Over the past five years in B.C., an average of 600 black bears have been destroyed each year, while 93 were relocated.
Bear Aware is an educational program managed by the British Columbia Conservation Foundation that is designed to prevent and reduce conflicts between people and bears. Last month, the Province announced that it is investing $225,000 toward Bear Aware to bring the program to more communities throughout B.C. over the next year.
In areas with high incidences of human-bear conflict, residents can learn more about avoiding conflict by talking to their local Bear Aware Community Co-ordinator.
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