Okanagan conservation officer urges against feeding bears

Violating the Wildlife Act can lead to fines of up to $575

The warning “don’t feed the bears” is a common expression because it rings true, a North Okanagan conservation officer said.

“You may be wondering, ‘What’s the big deal?’ Well, it is a big deal,” said Ken Owens with the Conservation Officer Service.

According to Owens, black bears primary food source is vegetation, including a variety of wild berries, honey, nuts and plants. The remainder is comprised of fish, bees, insects and other small animals.

“All the food bears need to survive is found in abundance in the wild. However, a bear enjoys the mouth-watering taste of grilled hot dogs and hamburgers with all the trimmings as much as humans do,” Owens said. Once a black bear gets a taste of human food, it wants more. Bears have a keen sense of smell and the aroma brings them running. Unlike people, they relish eating out of a garbage can, from a bird feeder or from a fruit or nut tree in your yard.”

Owens said one of the primary reasons not to feed a bear is that “a fed bear is a dangerous bear.”

Related: Ice-cream eating bear draws controversy

Related: Expanding Vernon’s WildSafeBC initiative

For the most part, bears ignore humans unless they are threatened or believe one to have food. As they don’t tend to associate humans with food, Owens said that they rarely attack.

“However, after a bear receives food from a human, it loses its instinctive fear of people. The desire for easy food overcomes its fear. Without this ‘built in’ fear, the bear approaches people in search of a quick meal. This makes a bear bold and dangerous,” Owens said, and added that fed bears become aggressive and have been known to kill humans.

Bears are generally afraid of humans, Owens said, and as such pose little threat and live their lives in the wild. However, should a bear lose that fear and develop a taste for human food, their average lifespan is significantly shorter than their nature-fed counterparts.

“Sadly, out of ignorance or because some people purposefully ignore the restrictions put in place regarding the feeding of or attracting bears, some bears must be killed. Why? Because an aggressive bear becomes much too dangerous for the human population,” Owens said. “These deaths can be avoided in most circumstances if we simply do not feed the bears or leave attractants, garbage, bird seed or compost available to bears. Let’s put an end to, ‘A fed bear is a dead bear.’ Keep your food away from the bears.”

Under the Wildlife Act in British Columbia, it is an offence to feed or leave attractants available to bears, with fines of up to $575.

Kelowna Conservation Officers and the West Kelowna Wildsafe BC Coordinator will be conducting bear attractant audits within the City of Kelowna and the Central Okanagan Regional District proactively enforcing the Wildlife Act and educating the public in removing attractants,

The public can report conflicts with dangerous wildlife, where this is a threat to public safety, to the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) hotline toll-free at 1 877 952-RAPP (7277), #7277 on the TELUS Mobility Network, or visit the RAPP website at www.rapp.bc.ca.

Attractant managing tips

  • Keep all garbage securely stored until collection day. Store attractants in a sturdy building or place in, a certified bear-resistant garbage container. Use certified bear resistant garbage containers community wide.
  • Manage your fruit/nut trees and berry bushes responsibly. Pick ripe and fallen fruit/nuts daily. Remove unused fruit/nut trees. Install bear electric fencing which is cheap and portable.
  • Bird feeders often become bear-feeders, so please-only feed birds during the winter months. Take feeders down between April and November. 1 kg of bird seed=6,600 calories. Keep ground free of seeds.

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