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Bears most attracted by garbage, livestock and bird feeders in Shuswap

Tagging garbage bins to educate residents not as successful in Blind Bay as other Shuswap areas
A bear walks off with a bag of garbage plucked from a residential garbage can, and heads off into the woods to feast. (Ross Davies/Special to Black Press)

Black bears enjoy checking out the garbage menu the night before garbage pickup.

Representatives from WildSafe BC, which focuses on preventing conflicts with wildlife, addressed Salmon Arm council on Nov. 28 with its 2022 report emphasizing the importance of eliminating bear attractants.

In the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, electoral areas C (South Shuwap) and E (rural Sicamous/Malakwa) have shown the most interest in the WildSafe BC program, said WildSafe’s community coordinator Olivia Lemke. She said Area C has had many human/black bear conflicts, while in E, it’s been human/grizzly bear conflicts.

She pointed out how garbage bin tagging in the CSRD has been an effective way to change human behaviours in most communities.

A WildSafe coordinator comes by before garbage pickup and tags those bins that have been put out the day before the pickup. Bears can be attracted by the scintillating scent of garbage and will knock over bins during the night to feed and then can return to the area for a repeat treat.

The coordinator comes back a second time to survey how many bins required tags in comparison to the first visit.

In White Lake, Sorrento, Eagle Bay and Sunnybrae, 75 per cent of bins tagged in the first survey weren’t tagged in the second visit, she said.

However, Blind Bay had a high number of bins tagged during the 2nd survey compared to the first. The area was then revisited door-to-door for education on bear attractant management.

Cougar and deer are generally next after bears in terms of wildlife encountered in the CSRD, followed by coyotes and moose.

This map from WildSafe BC shows reports of black bears in Salmon Arm made to the Conservation Officer Service from Jan. 1 to Oct. 31, 2022. (WildSafe BC image)
This map from WildSafe BC shows reports of black bears in Salmon Arm made to the Conservation Officer Service from Jan. 1 to Oct. 31, 2022. (WildSafe BC image)

Regarding 2022, Lemke said 379 black bear reports were made to the Conservation Officer Service and the Wildlife Alert reporting program from the Columbia Shuswap region.

Lemke said it was the second highest year for black bear reports in the CSRD after 2020.

Of those 379 reports, she said 305 came from places that don’t have the WildSafe BC program. Salmon Arm led the way with 196 reports, followed by 56 from Area F (North Shuswap), 37 from Sicamous and 16 from Area D (Falkland, Deep Creek, Ranchero, Salmon Valley, Silver Creek, and Gardom Lake).

Black bears are most commonly reported on the east side of Salmon Arm, Canoe and South Canoe.

She said garbage, livestock and bird feeders are the most common attractants associated with the reports.

Coun. Sylvia Lindgren, who lives in Sunnybrae, said wildlife go through people’s properties there, without conflict, and would WildSafe want those reported. Lemke said yes, because it provides an indication of where they’re travelling and where education might be required.

To report a wildlife sighting, people can go to the B.C. government website under Submit wildlife/plant data information. You can also report wildlife sightings and/or encounters to the BC Conservation Officer Service’s 24-hour hotline at 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP).

If Salmon Arm were to participate in WildSafe BC, Lemke said the opportunities would include: supporting WildSafeBC’s efforts to educate residents and tourists about wildlife safety; participating in the Columbia Shuswap Wildlife Working Group, which includes collaboration on things such as solid waste management; and provide free Wildsafe BC programming for 1,150 students in community schools.

In the CSRD areas signed up for WildSafe, benefits offered have included bear spray programs, WildSafe Rangers programs, door-to-door education and booths at community events.

City council will consider whether to spend $4,000 on the program when it holds budget deliberations in January 2023.

Read more: Salmon Arm man survives head-on crash that totals car, kills bear

Read more: Black bear with unusual white coat spotted in North Shuswap
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Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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