Leave the bears alone.
That's the message from BC Conservation Officer Tanner Beck regarding bear sightings in Salmon Arm
"It's not really a problem, they're always in the fringe areas – anywhere where there's green spaces," he says, noting the bears normally frequent surrounding forests and visit valley green spaces in spring because it's their initial food source. "The biggest thing is unnatural food – garbage, bird feed and pet food; it's higher in fats and sugars and they'll switch over to that and start seeking it out."
Dirty barbecues and compost piles will also attract bears.
The BC Conservation Officer Service is well aware of the presence of a mother bear and three cubs in the upper Okanagan Avenue area and is leaving them alone and asking the public to do the same.
Beck says at this time, the mother bear is showing no aggression, no assertive behaviour, has caused no property damage and has had no access to unnatural food – so far.
As well as the many green spaces in the upper Okanagan area, a large green space and ravine near 11th Street SE continues to attract bears.
"The bears that have been sighted there in the past have been reported to be getting into "unnatural" foods," said Beck, noting it is illegal to attract wildlife, and penalties for doing so range from a warning to being charged and ending up in court.
And people don't always take the offence seriously, until they realize there can be stiff penalties, Beck says the consequence for the bears who become habituated to unnatural food is deadly.
"A fed bear is a dead bear," he says referring to an old conservation officer saying and pointing out relocating the bears does not work unless they are moved very far away. "Once they become habituated, they will be back in a week or two. They know their home range and the food source."
Beck says members of the public can also help by calling the RAPP (Report All Poachers and Polluters) at 1-877-952-7277 or #7277 on a mobile phone if they see anyone feeding the bears or leaving attractants where bears can gain access.
He asks that anyone who uses the RAPP line provide information such as a licence plate or name and address if the individual is known to them.
Beck says typically bears will follow their natural food sources to upper elevations as they become available.
In the meantime, he advises people and their pets to keep their distance from the bears.
"She doesn't want to get into a confrontation, so give them space."