A grizzly bear in a fruit tree in Elkford in 2018. (Clayton Lamb / University of British Columbia)

Sparwood offers wildlife attractant tree replacement grant

WildSafe BC has been running a similar progam in the region since last year

The District of Sparwood has announced a grant to help with the replacement of wildlife attractant trees on property.

According to a July 25 district news release, the Animal Attractant Tree Replacement Grant is a voluntary program meant to help citizens who want to remove and replace fruit and nut trees from their property.

The program provides $125 for each attractant tree replaced with a non-attractant tree on a first come first serve basis while funds remain. It is part of the district’s ongoing efforts to reduce human-wildlife conflict, the release says.

The release brings up a complimentary program run by WildSafe BC.

Andrea Fletcher, Elk Valley coordinator with WildSafe BC, said they and the district have been working closely together on the two separately funded but interconnected programs.

With funding from Diversity Pathways, WildSafe BC offers cost-sharing for the removal attractant trees.

“This way, at little to no cost to the property owner, you can maintain your privacy and greenery without attracting bears into your yard!”

Fletcher said the WildSafe BC program began last year in the Elk Valley and South Country and is modelled after other successful programs in Banff and Canmore. WildSafe BC is hoping to see similar success, she said.

“Fruit, nut, and berry trees are a major source of attractants for bears.”

During the fall, she said, bears enter neighbourhoods seeking the easy and high calorie food source that an attractant tree can provide. This often results in food conditioned and human habituated bears that become a danger to the community, Fletcher said.

“Living in bear country, it is our responsibility to manage our attractants.”

For those who rely on such trees as a food source, this means picking the fruit early and often, and considering electric fencing options, Fletcher said, adding that they are running an electric fencing workshop on Aug. 18.

“For other people, such as people who no longer have the time or energy to manage their trees appropriately, or for people who have fruit trees on rental properties, we recommend replacing the fruit/nut bearing tree with something that will not be a wildlife attractant.”

Fletcher spoke of the The Wildlife Alert Reporting Program, where data is gathered from calls to the Conservation Officer Service and used to track regional wildlife sightings and what attractants were involved.

“Using data from this over the past few years, we can see that garbage is by far the number one reported attractant, but fruit, berries, and nut trees also play a significant role.

“For example, in 2021, there were close to 50 calls to the COS where garbage was named as the attractant, and another 13 calls where fruit trees/berries were the culprit.”

Those numbers are from last year’s annual report from Fernie.

Fletcher said the Sparwood council has been working hard to adopt bear-smart practices, and that the fruit tree replacement program is an example of steps being taken to improve wildlife co-existence in the area.

“We are looking forward to collaborating and streamlining our programs to hopefully make it really easy and cost effective to remove any unmanaged fruit trees and replace them with something equally beautiful.”

Grant application guidelines for District of Sparwood’s program can be found on their website here.

For more information about WildSafe BC’s program, email Fletcher at fernie@wildsafebc.com.

READ MORE: District of Elkford touts 2021 bear record, promotes bear safety

READ MORE: Co-existing with grizzly bears in the Elk Valley

READ MORE: Fernie gets new WildSafeBC coordinator


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josh.fischlin@thefreepress.ca

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