Bears that access garbage or other attractants often present dangers to humans (File photo)

Bears that access garbage or other attractants often present dangers to humans (File photo)

Column: Not an easy job being a bear in B.C., try not to make it worse

Great Outdoors by James Murray

By James Murray

Contributor

With each new day there are more and more buds coming out on the trees, the weather has been noticeably warmer and the songbirds have started to return.

I think it would be fair to say that spring is here.

So it’s only a matter of time before a bear, hungry from hibernation, shows up in someone’s yard looking for something to eat.

However, pickings are usually pretty slim this time of year. I mean, it can’t be an easy job being a bear in B.C. nowadays, what with human beings encroaching on their natural habitat, fluctuating and disappearing salmon runs, global warming and trophy hunters, not to mention oil and gas pipelines cutting through their natural territories.

It’s a lot to wake up to after a long winter’s hibernation, especially when you’re feeling grouchy and overly hungry.

Many people, especially in the Interior, have chosen to live in rural and semi-rural areas – areas that bears also call home.

By cutting down trees, clearing land and building homes in places that were once bear habitat, we have inadvertently encroached upon their natural territory. Ironically, it is human development that is displacing bears while at the same time luring them back into the same areas by leaving garbage and other food lying around for them to feed on.

Too many bears have come to associate people with food and subsequently head for landfill sites, dumpsters and people’s backyards in search of an easy meal. This altering of bear behaviour, known as food conditioning, combined with a loss of fear of humans through repeated contact, known as habituation, more often than not results in potentially dangerous, if not disastrous contact/conflict situations. Bears are pretty well always the losers in such situations.

Read more: Increase in Shuswap bear sightings prompts reminder about attractants

Read more: Garbage attracts bears, put it away or face fines: B.C. conservation officers

The most effective way to prevent and/or avert such conflicts is simply to put away or remove any food stuff that might attract bears such as garbage, bird seed, dog food, compost and fruit that has fallen from trees. Keep garbage in the house or in a secured container, garage or shed until pick-up day, and return the containers to their secured site once they’ve been emptied. Pick ripe and fallen fruit daily. Use bird feeders only in winter months and keep the nearby ground free of seeds and nuts. Clean your barbecue after each use and store it in a secured area. Store pet food inside and bring pet dishes inside as well. Do not put meat products or uncooked food into your compost, and keep it covered. And remember, if you do end up confronting a bear in your yard, remain calm and, by all means, keep away from the bear. If possible, bring children and pets indoors. Never approach or attempt to chase a bear as they can move very quickly. Once the bear has left the area, check the yard to ensure there are no attractants that will draw it back.

Most important, avoid contact at all costs. Bears are large, strong, fast and dangerous. They are also unpredictable. Bears also tend to become more brazen when they are hungry, especially when first coming out of hibernation or when they have become starved because natural food sources are limited or no longer available.

A hungry bear will do virtually anything to get at something to eat. A little common sense and due diligence will go a long way in preventing and averting human/bear contacts and conflicts.

Like I said, it’s not an easy job being a bear.

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