Opinion

Think about bear proofing your property

Bear sightings are on the increase. At this time of year, hungry bears are waking up, and on the hunt for a good meal. Ideally, they will find their food up in the mountains, far away from towns. But if they can’t find enough there, and there are lots of garbage cans in town overflowing with delicious scraps, they are going to take the easier option. Now is the time to think about how bear safe your property is. Is your garbage can secured? Are there food scraps on your barbecue? Bears will be attracted to any food source, even a bird feeder. Once bears learn how to access human food, they'll do almost anything to get it. Unfortunately, the management options available to COs are all short-term band-aid solutions.

Make sure you report a bear sighting to the Conservation Officers. It is important that the COs are able to keep track of bears that are returning again and again to areas where there are humans. People are reluctant to call sometimes because they do not want to see a bear destroyed, but it’s better that the bears are dealt with before they become a problem, or hurt somebody.

Obviously the best thing is to stop bears becoming a problem in the first place, which brings us back to how we manage our properties. The only long-term solution is to prevent "problem" bears from being created in the first place.

Relocating bears is rarely successful as often these bears return to their original home territory or they become problem bears in other communities. In addition, relocated bears usually fail to adapt to their new habitat. They often starve to death or are killed by bears that already occupy the territory.

Relocating grizzlies is usually more successful because there is more suitable habitat available for them.

Aside from the risk of problem bears, they also cost B.C. tax payers big money. The B.C. Conservation Officer Service spends more than $1 million every year responding to bear complaints and relocating or destroying bears. Property damage, which is not included in this figure, is estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Bears damage household items, fruit trees, apiaries, livestock and vehicles.

If you still need reason to be bear safe, consider the law. It is an offense for people in B.C. 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 that requires "the removal or containment of compost, food, food waste or domestic garbage." If people fail to comply with the order they could face a heavy penalty of up to $50,000 and/or six months in jail.

Contact your local Conservation Service Officer if you are aware of anyone who is feeding dangerous wildlife and posing a risk to public safety.

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