UPDATE: May 23, 2 p.m.
Salmon Arm residents are being asked to keep their garbage and other bear attractants out of reach following a black bear sighting at Hillcrest Elementary on Wednesday.
Signs were up around the school Thursday morning, May 23, warning that a sow and cub were sighted in the vicinity.
The previous day, the school had posted a notice to their website stating the bear was seen in the area at approximately 4 p.m. The post acknowledged that bears, cougars and other wild animals often move into some Salmon Arm neighbourhoods this time of year.
A witness reported seeing garbage strewn about by a nearby residence.
Tanner Beck, Conservation Officer for the North Okanagan zone, says it is the public’s responsibility to make sure attractants are not within easy reach.
“This includes securing garbage where it will be inaccessible until the morning of garbage day, removing bird seed and securing any other food items,” said Beck. “Also, once fruit starts to ripen, pick it as soon as possible and do not let it drop and rot.”
Beck noted that although the bear was sighted near the school, that doesn’t mean the animal will be destroyed.
“The bear’s behaviour is what is assessed, and if the bear is habituated to non-natural food, or is fearless or aggressive towards people, unfortunately they are destroyed,” said Beck. “The only thing that can change is our own behaviour. If people make an effort to prevent conflicts it will stop the destruction of bears.”
Posts on social media indicate a black bear was spotted near Hillcrest Elementary.
One photo posted to Facebook shows the bear in the schoolyard while another shows it walking down a street near the school.
A post on the school’s website states that the bear was sighted after school was out at approximately 4 p.m. The post acknowledges that bears, cougars and other wild animals often move into some Salmon Arm neighbourhoods this time of year.
“We all need to be prepared, should we come across a wild animal. Bear and Cougar attacks are uncommon, but precautions should still be taken,” the post reads.
The post also contains precautions suggested by WildSafeBC for children walking to and from school.
Suggestions include: walking in groups of three or more while making a lot of noise, carrying any food sealed up in a lunch kit and backpack, remaining alert and using sidewalks along roads rather than shortcuts through forested areas.
If a bear or cougar is encountered children are advised to make themselves as large as possible and back away slowly while speaking in a loud low voice if the animal continues to approach. WildSafeBC recommends avoiding sudden movements like running away.
Any wild animal sightings near Hillcrest should be reported to the school.