A small bear cub was spotted on the north side of McLeod Ave. in West Fernie on Friday evening, showing signs of an early bear season for the Elk Valley.
As spring approaches and the snow begins to thaw, the hibernating bears will soon awake and begin their quest for food. According to Kathy Murray, WildSafe BC Community Coordinator, Elk Valley residents should practice smart wildlife prevention habits in the spring.
“Spring is the best opportunity we have to prevent bears from learning bad habits by insuring that our properties are free of attractants,” she said. “It is much easier to keep food away from a wild bear in the first place than it is to teach a bear to stay away from unnatural food that he has learned to enjoy.”
The local bears will awake from hibernation potentially with a larger appetite due to last year’s low berry crop.
“A lot of the bears went into hibernation hungry last year because of a hot and dry summer, a berry crop failure and a lack of natural food,” said Murray. “An early spring may prompt them to emerge from their dens any time.”
Murray encourages residents to follow guidelines that will help keep their properties free of attractants, including keeping garbage inside between collection days, cleaning barbeques after use and bringing in bird feeders.
“Bring in bird feeders because birdseed is a great source of protein and we call them ‘bear feeders’,” she said, adding that pet food can also be an attractant and recommends storing food in a secure manner.
Last season, local conservation officers (CO) had to destroy 20 bears due to bears becoming comfortable searching for food within city limits. COs are trying to prevent having to destroy more bears.
“We are trying to be as proactive and preventative as possible, but if there is a human safety issue, the COs unfortunately have no other choice than to destroy bears. We can all work together to make sure we prevent that. If we all follow the guidelines, keeping garbage indoors, attractants secured from wildlife and comply with local bylaws, the end result will be a cleaner, safer community for people and wildlife,” said Murray.
Murray says there will be other wildlife active in the area during spring that people should be aware of, including coyotes, cougars, moose and deer.
“We live in wildlife habitat, so we should always be looking at preventing conflict with wildlife and what to do if you encounter wildlife,” said Murray. “The bottom line is never feed or approach wildlife.”