An increasing volume of bear-related calls has resulted in the Terrace Conservation Officer Service reminding the public to keep any attractants secured and cleaned out.
The calls mostly come from properties near Lakelse Lake. Grizzly bears have been frequenting the area, with at least one family residing in their habitat.
Bears’ keen sense of smell can draw them to garbage cans, bird feeders, vehicles — anything that can ring their dinner bell.
“If bears are permitted access to unnatural food sources, they will inevitably become habituated and food conditioned,” wrote Skeena Region conservation officer Scott Senkiw in an email to the Terrace Standard.
“This can cause health problems for the animals and a negative modification of natural behaviour. This can lead to bears acting aggressively when they become challenged while seeking food sources they have learned are easy to obtain and high in calories.”
While most of the calls have just been sightings or evidence, Senkiw doesn’t want the situation to escalate to a point where a bear may have to be destroyed after coming into a residential area.
“Public safety is the number one priority for the Conservation Officer Service. Therefore, bears which have become food-conditioned and habituated will ultimately be removed from the population,” Senkiw says. “In addition, those responsible for allowing bears to access garbage and unnatural food sources will be held accountable via enforcement action.”
Senkiw says it’s critical that residents do everything they can to help the Conservation Officer Service keep the wildlife wild and the community safe.
Some ways residents can do their part are:
• Securing garbage on non-collection days
• Putting out garbage only on the morning of collection
• Keeping your garbage bin clean
• Kindly encouraging neighbours to put out their garbage at the appropriate times too, and offering to help out if they are unable to do so
• Keeping barbecues clean and covered
• Picking ripe fruit, cleaning up any fallen fruit
• Putting away and cleaning up any bird seed
People who spot a bear or cougar, especially near homes, are asked to call the RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277. Last month, officer Michael Gueze said there were some issues last year of people posting photos of foraging bears on social media instead of calling conservation officers first.
Keeping attractants out in the open or feeding dangerous wildlife can also result in fines of up to $575 under the BC Wildlife Act.