Be bear aware is the warning issued by the Conservation Officer Service to North Coast communities on April 12.
Residents of Kitimat, Terrace and Prince Rupert areas are likely to see increased bear activity in the coming weeks, with hibernation ending and bears foraging for a fast meal, Zane Testawich, acting sergeant for the COS, said.
“The early education message is garbage, compost and bird feeders need to be put away,” he said.
Bears are hungry, and if they were visiting a residential community last fall, they will likely be back expecting to find food in the same places, like household garbage in unsecured containers.
“So we want to remind the public that with bears waking up, we want to secure our attractants. That means garbage, recycling, bird feeders, and anything else that can be considered an attractant. We want them stored away in an area not accessible to wildlife,” Testawich said
The COS recognizes that not everyone has a shed in which to store garbage and suggests joining forces with neighbours to make trips to the local landfill.
“At the very least, let’s strap our lids down on our garbage cans so the bears have a harder time accessing that. And, if possible, we’re asking people to freeze their garbage or their stuff until the end of the week and put it out on pickup day,” the COS officer said.
The more people on board with securing attractants, the better off the bears will be, as they will be less likely to become acclimated to human communities and food.
Bears are not transient animals and stick close to their homes. They need natural food sources and should be in the wild eating berries and salmon and do not usually cross into another bear’s territory.
Early attractant management and education are keys to keeping bears at bay, Testawich said. The COS encourages anyone who sees a bear or has issues to immediately call the RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277, to report the sighting and leave a message.
Providing information is valuable as it allows the COS to track where bears are and where they may be headed.
“[When people call], we have an opportunity to intervene in the early stages. We can help manage the attractant with the person, provide advice and how they can store items away,” the acting sergeant said.
“We can’t manage the bear. We manage the people, and the more people we manage early on, the more we can reduce these conflicts … and if the bear needs to be removed from the population because of garbage, then we have a better idea of where to look and how to manage the people in that specific area.”
In 2021 the COS dealt with more than 330 bear calls in the North Coast Zone, which includes Prince Rupert, Terrace and Kitimat. The number was down from the previous year of just more than 700 calls. The decrease can be directly attributed to harsh food conditions in the 2020 spring. Floods and heavy rains negatively affected the growth of berries, and the number of fish that bears could access, thus pushing them into residential communities to find food.
In total, during 2021, there were more than 1400 wildlife conflict calls to the North Coast Zone COS, which is based out of Terrace. Those calls include all animals and not just bears, Testawitch said.
K-J Millar | Editor and Multi-Media Journalist
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