Bear activity - is this the new norm?
In brief (more information below)
When speaking to wildlife experts offline, I hear that the recent level of bear activity may very well be the norm moving forward. Bears are being forced out of their territories due to fires and heat impacting their food source. A bear's territory is large, and there is a ripple effect across the province, pushing bears into areas where they have not been in the past. We must be extra diligent in managing our bear attractants. What we do this summer and autumn will set us up for what we experience next year and beyond.
No surprise that bears are attracted to human garbage and recycling along with fruit trees. Bears are also attracted to canned goods, bottles, drinks, soaps, cosmetics, toiletries, pet food, sunscreen, and bug repellent.
There are two numbers to call to report wildlife encounters or conflict.
The role of the WildSafeBC Program is to prevent conflict with wildlife through collaboration, education and community solutions.
RAPP (Report All Poachers and Polluters) | 24/7 |1-877-952-RAPP (7277).
If there is a conflict (a bear charging and then backing away, for example), or undesired behaviour like getting into garbage, carport, home, etc. or if a bear is not wary of humans, report to RAPP. Also, if you see wildlife in distress, call RAPP. Here is a good site that explains RAPP.
Why report a wildlife/bear sighting or conflict?
WildSafeBC and Conservation Officer Service (CO) work together, and tracking bear activity is part of their work. COs also have Special Provincial Constable Status under the Police Act and will work with citizens not keeping their yards free from bear attractants. Under the Wildlife Act, it is an offence for people in British Columbia to feed dangerous wildlife (bears, cougars, coyotes and wolves) or disobey orders to remove and clean up food, food waste or other substances that can attract dangerous wildlife to their premises.
Conservation Officers may issue a written dangerous wildlife protection order requiring “the removal or containment of compost, food, food waste or domestic garbage.” If people fail to comply with the order, they could face a penalty of up to $50,000 and/or six months in jail.
Also, if citizens do not report to WildSafeBC or RAPP, it is tough to convince WildSafeBC to come to our community for education/support.
Bear Smart Community
Bear Smart Community is a citizen-led program that requires volunteers, hazard assessments, bear-human management and land-use conflict plan, a continued education program, a regional solid waste management system, and Bear Smart Bylaws. It is a great program, but it will not remove the bears. That is up to us, with or without the Bear Smart designation.
However, if anyone is interested in leading a Bear Smart volunteer committee - please let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org), and I will add it to the 2024 RDOS/Area F business plan and budget.
Note - the RDOS has a request for proposals for regional waste management (garbage and recycling pick up). Until we see the results of the RFP, we won't know what type of bins are required (automated, semi-automated, hybrid, etc.). From the board discussion, many directors are interested in hearing more about wildlife-resistant carts. I'll report more as the process unfolds.
Community Meetings and Garbage Audit.
There was a GWB WildSafeBC meeting with a Conservation Officer in attendance last October (recap is here).
A follow-up event, Earth Day Celebration, was held in April, and WildSafeBC attended with information and resources.
In early July, WildSafeBC completed a 'garbage audit'. This is where staff drive the neighbourhood in the evening to see how many homes have garbage out the night before pick up. The auditors covered all of Lower West Bench up to Husual and Sage Mesa. Three houses had their garbage out the night before.
For comparison, in 2019, the garbage audit found 53 homes with garbage out the night before.
Garbage & Recycling
Area F's bylaw states that household garbage cannot go to the curb until after 5:00 am on garbage day. Household garbage must be placed in a wildlife-resistant container or a wildlife-proof enclosure.
I purchased a wild-life-resistant container a few years back (during the community sale initiative). We do not rely on the container to store our garbage outside. Our trash is locked in our workshop, and recently we've been freezing the very smelly stuff to take out on garbage day.
There is room for improvement for some in their fruit tree management. As a property owner who had (and still has) too many fruit trees, I know removing the trees is costly and labour-intensive. But if you are not actively harvesting your trees, please consider removal.
A female black bear's territory is restrictive and averages 10 - 40 square KMs. A male bear encompasses several female ranges and is often more than 100 square KMs.
More info. We know that if a sow teaches her cubs to eat at your house, the cub will be back the following year, and the learning will be passed down if she has cubs.
Reducing conflict with bears.
Thanks for reading. Let me know if you have any questions.