Bear Aware Goes Into Hibernation for the Winter
By Rachel Roussin
The 2008 bear season is quickly coming to an end and this gives us a good opportunity to reflect on the good and the bad of 2008 in regards to how we managed our bear attractants and how we can improve for next year.
Many Rossland residents this year commented on seeing fewer bears in town than last year; however, a few neighbourhoods in Rossland were an exception where problem bears ‘hung out’ and sightings were more frequent in those areas. This accurately reflects the number of calls to the Conservation Officers via the RAPP line (the RAPP line is an emergency wildlife occurrence telephone number: 952-RAPP). Last year Rossland had 120 calls to the RAPP line whereas this year only 31 calls were reported. This information does not necessarily reflect all bear sightings in the community, but it does reflect the amount of bear incidences that are deemed dangerous or troublesome. Irresponsible management of garbage accounted for 48% of these calls.
In comparison, Trail had over three times as many calls to the Conservation Officer’s RAPP line for a total of 94. This was Trail’s first year participating in the Bear Aware Program, so Bear Aware does not have any comparative data. The high number of bear occurrences reported in Trail may be normal considering that Trail’s population is more than double that of Rossland; however, the RAPP line reports confirm that one reason that bears were in Trail is because of attractants. 50 percent of those calls were sightings only; however, garbage related incidents accounted for 43 percent.
A total of ten bears were destroyed this year by Conservation Officers in Rossland and Trail combined. Unfortunately this happened because some bears became ‘problem bears’ which means they became food conditioned or habituated. Food conditioning of a bear happens when a bear becomes used to an easy source of food in a community, like garbage or fruit, and therefore becomes dependant on it and doesn’t return to its natural habitat. Once a bear is food conditioned, it can become very bold in its attempts to get food and this may lead to property damage or possible harm to humans. A habituated bear gets used to the presence of humans and seems to loose its natural response of fleeing when it sees people or hears their noises. Bears that come in close contact with humans are labelled as threat to human safety. According to The BC Conservation Foundation, very few bears are destroyed because of something they actually did, but usually because people are afraid of what they might do.
Bear Aware would like to challenge people in 2009 to find solutions to their garbage issues whether it’s residential, commercial or communal dumpsters to try and bring these numbers down and to make our communities safer. Many dumpsters were left unsecure this year and a quick improvement to this is a metal lid with a good clip or a fence built around the dumpster. The local group, Natural Control Alternatives (NCA) has received quotes for bear proof dumpsters and will be presenting their information to the City in the New Year.
Bear Aware is also looking to establish a fruit picking team in Trail as it has proven to be a successful way to control this tasty attractant in Rossland. If anyone is interested in stepping up a as a coordinator for the fruit picking team in Trail, please contact Rossland Bear Aware.
It’s clear that we still have work to do in our communities to make it safer for bears and people and knowing what our accomplishments were for this year, makes building on those accomplishments easier for 2009. If anyone would like more information on volunteering or becoming more ‘bear aware’, please contact Rossland Bear Aware at 362-5452.