Spring has officially arrived and that means that the bears are due back in town any day now. With that in mind, local Conservation Officers Alex Desjardins and Dan Bartol are reminding locals of appropriate bear smart practices.
“The biggest problem we see is domestic garbage, and it’s an easy fix. It’s all about managing our attractants,” Desjardins said. “Household garbage is the single biggest killer of bears in British Columbia, by far.”
Garbage should be kept in a secure place until pickup day – whether that’s a garage or a secure shed – and garbage should only be put out the morning of pickup, not the night before.
“Bears become accustomed to that and they’ll do their garbage run the night before,” Desjardins said.
Other sources of attractants include compost, pet or livestock food, bird feeders and greasy barbecues.
Fines for feeding dangerous wild animals or leaving attractants are $345.
“Once a bear is habituated to non-natural foods it’s almost impossible to break that habit, therefore the chances of surviving are very slim,” Desjardins added.
Bears spotted in town should be reported immediately to Conservation Officers. While some may be reluctant to report bear activity, believing that it is a death sentence for the bears, Desjardins says the opposite is actually true.
“What happens is that a bear will come and people won’t call, and the bear will come again and access garbage, and people won’t call, and the habituation will elevate on every encounter until the bear starts pushing on the door or coming into an open window or bluff charging kids,” Desjardins said. “At that point people will call the Conservation Officer, but at that point it’s too late.”
If COs are made aware of a roaming bear immediately, steps can be taken to deter the bear from remaining in town, including aversive conditioning or translocation.
Illegal dumping is also a common issue for COs at this time of year, despite the fact that the CSRD has free yard waste disposal until May 15.
Often, an illegal dump will start with branches and leaves from one individual, and escalate into full fledged garbage and trash.
Local COs plan to step up their efforts to catch perpetrators this spring, including the use of video surveillance at certain locations. Fines for illegal dumping can range from $115 to $1575.
Anyone that observes any bear activity in town, illegal attractants or illegal dumping should call COs at 1-877-952-7277 immediately.