You’ll be seeing bears and their cubs around BC again now that the weather has warmed up.
As June rings in mating season, the Sunshine Coast Bear Alliance is reminding residents close to bears or those heading out on trails to respect wildlife.
“The main number one reason for black bears being killed by the conservation service is when bears are deemed a safety issue,” said Diane Henley, a volunteer with the alliance. “One of their mandates is to provide public safety, so when our bears get into non-natural food food sources like garbage and other attractants, they start spending more time in our neighborhoods and get deemed a safety risk.”
Henley stated 588 black bears were killed in BC between January and December last year, with 77 of those bears being cubs. She says ‘bear-human conflict’ is a misnomer, as bears have no conflict with humans.
“Bears are seeking out food, they’re trying to raise families and they’re highly intelligent animals and innately quite content. I think they’re probably more tolerable of us than we are with them, so we’re hoping we can change [perspectives], mentor, educate, create more awareness about what we as a community have to do, and to provide a safe coexistence.”
In order to bear-proof your home, she recommends you keep your trash in and find ways to feed birds without using bird feeders.
“Bird feeders are that number one attractant for bears,” said Henley. “They are such a high calorie reward for them. It’s easy for them to gain a lot of calories that way, so we really encourage people to find other ways to feed their birds during the summer and bear season. [From] March to November there are lots of natural foods for birds.”
Other tips include keeping your car doors locked, because bears can smell old food wrappers left inside. Additionally, barbeques should be kept clean, and all fallen fruit from fruit trees should be picked up. She also recommends not having outdoor fridges, and keeping your windows and doors locked.
If you’re headed out on the trail and you come across a bear, it’s recommended you let it know you’re there by stepping on a stick or announcing your presence in a firm voice if you get too close.
“There’s a little bit of an adage, ‘wind in your eyes, avoid a surprise,’” said Henley. “You may see the bear stand up, and unfortunately people sometimes think this means that the bear is going to charge. What the bear’s actually doing is trying to get a better sense of you, get a better smell, a little better look. So if the bear has seen you just calmly put your arms out to the side and say; ‘Hey bear, I’m leaving.’ They really are quite perceptible to tone of voice. Just remain calm and back away, don’t turn around, just back away and go the way you came.”
If you see a bear in your neighborhood, you’re encouraged to tell the bear to ‘move along’ if it gets too close to your home.