A few common sense tips for bear safety
Bear calls have been keeping Conservation Officers running for much of the past few weeks as a lackluster berry crop appears to have driven the annimals down to fruit trees in and around the communities of the West Kootenay.
Bears everywhere are out searching for available food sources as they fuel up for the winter months.
It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure bears don’t have to be destroyed for public safety.
What can YOU do in urban areas?
- Use bear-proof waste containers or keep garbage secured in the house, garage or shed until pickup day, and return the containers to the secure site once they are emptied.
- Pick ripe and fallen fruit daily and remove any unused fruit trees.
- Use bird feeders only in winter. Keep the ground free of seeds and nuts.
- Clean the barbecue grill after each use, and store it in a secure area.
- Bring pet food dishes inside and store the pet food inside.
- Do not add meat products or uncooked food to compost. Turn it regularly and keep it covered.
- Use electric fencing to protect attractants such as small livestock, backyard chickens, beehives, compost bins and fruit trees.
- If residents spot a bear, they are advised to remain calm, keep away from the bear and bring children and pets indoors, if possible.
- People should never approach a bear and should not run from it, as bears can move very quickly.
- Once a bear has left the area, residents should check their yards to ensure there are no attractants available.
- Work with your neighbours and municipal government to create a “Bear Smart” Community.
The most effective way to reduce human-wildlife interactions is to secure food attractants, such as garbage. Communities where attractants are managed properly, such as “Bear Smart” communities, have seen significant declines in bear conflict calls, and the number of bears destroyed. Kamloops, Squamish, Whistler, Lions Bay, Port Alberni, Naramata and New Denver are designated “Bear Smart”.
What can YOU do when hiking in bear country?
- Make sure someone knows your plans. Before your trip, leave names, trip plans and date of return with friends or family.
- Carry bear spray, keep it accessible and know how to use it.
- Go with friends. Bears are less likely to approach people in groups. Check each other’s position often and remember that the larger the group, the less likely a bear will approach.
- Keep young children close to you. Children can be particularly at risk because they are small and make erratic movements.
- If you hike with a dog, keep it on a leash. An unleashed dog can lead an irritated bear back to you and your friends.
- Make noise. Carry a noise maker, talk loudly, sing or let out occasional warning shouts. This will alert bears to your approach so you are less likely to cause a surprise encounter.
- Remember that other sounds, such as flowing rivers and streams and strong winds, can drown out the noise you make. Be extra noisy at these times.
- Avoid areas with typical bear food sources. These include berry patches, grain fields, garbage pits, beehives and anywhere you can see an animal carcass.
- Watch for fresh bear signs. If the signs look like they were made recently, quickly and calmly leave the area.
- Avoid being out between dusk and dawn. Although bear encounters can happen at any time of day, bears are most active between dusk and dawn.
What can YOU do when camping?
- Never feed or approach bears or other wildlife.
- Reduce or eliminate odours that attract bears. At the campground, store food in air-tight containers in your RV or car trunk.
- Bear caches must be used if they are available.
- Pack out all your garbage. Store garbage with your food, out of reach of bears. Do not bury garbage or throw it into pit toilets.
- Only paper and wood may be burned: plastics, tinfoil, and food items do not burn completely and the remains will attract bears.
- Storing garbage in bear-proof containers is recommended.
- Cook and eat well away from your tent.
- Always sleep in a tent – not under the stars.
- Clean up immediately and thoroughly. Never leave cooking utensils, coolers, grease or dish water lying around.
- The odours of cosmetics, toothpaste and insect repellent can attract bears. These should be stored out of reach with your food and garbage, never in your tent. Leave strongly perfumed items at home.
To report a human-wildlife interaction, please call the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) hotline at 1 877 952-7277 (RAPP).
- Under the Wildlife Act, it is illegal to feed or attract dangerous wildlife, such as bears.
- Penalties can be as high as $100, 000 in fines and one year in prison.