Bear/human conflicts increasing

More public education is the key, Bear Aware representative Emily Lomas says to Clearwater council

As of Aug. 15, conservation officers had destroyed six bears in Clearwater and area so far this year, according to Bear Aware coordinator Emily Lomas.

This compares with just three during all of last year.

Clearwater residents had made 63 bear reports as of mid-August, Lomas told Clearwater town council last Tuesday. Several of the reports no doubt were repeats of the same bear, she noted.

Of these, 32 were of nuisance bears, of which four were trapped. There three reports of grizzly bears from community members.

“It’s all about education,” she said. “Relocation and destruction are not solutions.”

Lomas differentiated between habituated bears and food conditioned bears. Habituated bears are used to human beings and have lost their fear of people.

Food conditioned bears have developed an appetite for human food.

A habituated bear might not be a food conditioned bear, and a food conditioned bear might not be habituated. However, problems arise when a bear has lost it fear of people and has come to associate humans with food.

Garbage is the number one bear attractant, Lomas said.

People should not put their trash out too early, and they should use bear-resistant containers.

Fruit trees are not far down the list from garbage for attracting bears. The Bear Aware coordinator encouraged people to plant other kinds of trees. If people do have fruit trees, the fruit should be picked before it ripens, and definitely before it falls on the ground. Fruit gleaning – allowing others to harvest extra fruit – has worked well.

Bears also like bird feeders. A bear needs to eat up to 20,000 calories per day during the late summer and fall to put on weight for winter, she noted, and the sunflower seeds in a bird feeder help feed that appetite.

Birds don’t need to be fed in summer and so feeders should be put away until winter, Lomas advised.

Other common culprits in causing bear/human conflicts include barbeques, compost bins, honeybees and pet food.

Possible steps the District of Clearwater could take in collaboration with Bear Aware would include hiring students or volunteers to educate the public, putting on workshops on composting or how to install electric fencing, starting a fruit gleaning program, or implementing a bear bylaw as in other municipalities (no garbage out except on garbage day from April 1 to Nov. 30).