A mixture of misconceptions and a lack of attention to garbage and other attractants are once again causing serious bear problems in Sooke.
Contrary to popular belief, bears do not hibernate on Vancouver Island. While they are less active when natural food sources grow scarce, alternative food sources such as garbage, pet food and bird feed are enough to keep them awake and active.
Unfortunately, those food sources are invariably near humans.
“Once a bear starts associating human environments with food they tend to lose their natural wariness and become what is called human-habituated”, said Debb Read, an urban wildlife conflict specialist with Wildwise Sooke.
Once that happens, the bears will tolerate humans in much closer proximity than is healthy for either the bear or the humans, and all the yelling, barking, and horn honking in the world is not going to scare them off.
Habituated bears may not only ignore humans but may become aggressive and bold.
In fact, eating garbage can make bears sick, changing their brain chemistry to make them behave in a way that makes them more aggressive.
That was the case on Nov. 16 when a black bear had to be destroyed in the middle of the Grant Road residential neighbourhood after beginning to test windows and doors, looking for even more food.
Similar bear encounters have been reported in the Woodlands, Broomhill, Phillips and Sooke Roads neighbourhoods and in the West Coast Road Trailer Park.
“Educate yourself by looking for the public advisory messages. There are signs, flyers, and posters in local communities, on public notice boards, and the information is available on social media websites,” said Read.
“Put yourself in the bears’ shoes: consider your property as an area to forage for food. If you notice anything a bear might want to eat, secure it.”
For more information on managing wildlife attractants please email WildWiseSooke@gmail.com.