Now that spring has arrived, black bears are waking up. Conservation officers are urging caution to prevent bear encounters. (Black Press file)

Now that spring has arrived, black bears are waking up. Conservation officers are urging caution to prevent bear encounters. (Black Press file)

The bears are back in town: Caution urged as hibernation ends

Conservation officers in Okanagan and Similkameen urging caution to prevent bear encounters

Spring has arrived and the bears are awake and active.

In the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys, black bears are emerging from their winter denning, looking for calorie-rich meals after months of fasting. As a result, the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen is urging extra caution, especially around sows who have new cubs.

READ ALSO: Efforts urged to keep bears from populated areas in Okanagan and Similkameen

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Black bears are the most common and widely distributed of the three bear species found in Canada. British Columbia has an estimated 120,000 to 150,000 black bears, and most of the province is considered bear country. These bears are most active from April to November.

Bears can smell five times better than a dog. Rats and raccoons are also well adapted to smell and locate possible food sources. Convenient and unnatural food sources can draw wildlife into communities and create safety concerns for people and animals.

To avoid attracting bears and critters to neighbourhoods, the regional district recommends storing all garbage in a secure area, preferably a lockable garage or shed; washing all food and recyclable containers before placing bins or leaving out for drop-off; freezing potentially smelly leftovers or scraps, especially meat and fish, and depositing in a garbage container just prior to placing at the curb for pick-up; removing bird feeders since birdseed is a high-calorie snack for a hungry bear and placing garbage at the curb only on the morning of pick-up.

Sightings of wildlife in conflict should be reported to the Conservation Officer Service at any time by calling 1-877-952-7277. The number can also be used to report bear, cougar, coyote or wolf sightings in urban areas.

Each year, the Conservation Officer Service receives between 14,000 and 25,000 calls about black bear activity in B.C.

Wildlife sightings are uploaded daily to the WildSafeBC Wildlife Alert Reporting Program. This program allows people to see the wildlife that has been reported in their neighborhoods, and will also provide alerts to new sightings.

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