Over the last couple of weeks, many residents in the Valley have been posting photos of bear sightings, in the backyard, walking down the street or tipping over garbage cans.
While it is not uncommon to spot bears in the area, a lack of precipitation has caused much of the plants and food sources for bears to dry up, forcing them to look elsewhere for food.
“They’re governed by their stomachs,” said Warren Chayer, conservation officer for the region. “Things are starting to dry up and they’re always looking for food.”
Bears will go where it is easy for them to access food — both in the wild and residential areas. The beginning of autumn also means the fruit trees and bushes, such as apples, pears, plums and blackberries, are ready to harvest and may be falling to the ground causing enticing smells for all kinds of local wildlife.
Therefore, it is best practice, said Chayer, to practice good bear habits.
These cuddly-looking creatures are very smart. While roaming streets, snooping in backyards and climbing fences, if they find an un-guarded bird feeder, an open barbecue with some dinner left behind, a weak garbage can or forgotten fruit trees, they’ll make it a habit to return for more.
“They lose all fear,” said Chayer. “They let their natural defences go down because the urge to get food is more than the urge to be left alone.”
It takes an extra few steps, but Chayer suggests everyone do their part to ensure the bears can’t get to certain food sources. Once they’ve realized they can’t anything, the bears move on.
Garbage bags may need to be kept indoors or in a secure container and put out for collection as close as possible to pick-up, instead of being left outside and vulnerable. Bird feeders are an attractant for many animals other than their intended visitors. Squirrels, deer, bear, you name it — the home decorations can bring unwanted guests.
Another attractant that many may not think about, said Chayer, are unutilized fruit trees.
“Let’s consider, maybe, chopping those trees down if they’re fruit-bearing and we never use them and we have no intention of using that fruit,” he said. “Put an ad out, ‘Free apples to pick,’ or put up a sign and get those picked.”
Chayer added the B.C. Conservation Officer Service will conduct an enforcement audit in some areas for attractants. A dangerous wildlife protection order can be issued if people aren’t managing their attractants in a matter that is compliant with the Wildlife Act.
“It does take a little more effort, but it’s only for a few months every year,” he said. “We gotta tow the line and if everybody does it, then the bears (aren’t) getting any rewards…we really need to stop it before it starts.”
In the fall, common bear behaviour includes hanging out more frequently near rivers, lakes and streams (as they may be looking for fish making their way upstream), and they can tend to be more defensive when foraging for food — if you see a bear in the backyard, stay inside.