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.
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.
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. 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.
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 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.
• 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 at: www.rapp.bc.ca