Bear in mind . . .

Summer Fun 2011 - 16Inevitably, each September when the kids go back to school and the nights start to cool down, my thinking starts down the road of the past summer and what lies ahead in the coming months of autumn. Firewood, gardens, winterizing the boat, snow tires, and antifreeze are just a few of the things in my life that need addressing as the leaves start to turn and fall. Like most people in B.C. fall brings about a sense of awareness that as sure as Monday is before Tuesday, winter isn’t far off. While we busy ourselves with whatever tasks we undertake to get ready for the winter ahead why not add just one more thing to the long list — making your house bear proof.

Just as I know we’ll be skiing deep powder sometime this winter, we’ll also, in the next three months, be dealing with many hungry black bears looking to fatten up before a winter of hibernation. Black bears will eat up to 20,000 calories a day in the next few months, and they can smell food from over a kilometre away. It’s up to us to keep them away from habituation.

Bears that are habituated to human food and garbage don’t fare well as they eventually become a danger to humans and are usually shot. Garbage, fruit, birdseed, compost, barbecues and outdoor deep freezes are prime targets for hungry bears, and with the bear populations being at a record high of an estimated 160,000 in B.C. alone, that’s a lot of hungry Yogis.

Last time I checked all our houses were built in their forest and not the other way around, yet people seem to still be oblivious to the one wild animal that’s likely to be outside their bedroom window some night soon. How hard is it to pick all your fruit, empty your birdfeeder, use up your compost and clean your barbecue in the next few weeks? If we all have a goal of not contributing anything to bear habituation then most bears will make it through to hibernation this winter.

As human garbage is the number one attractant for hungry black bears, taking a few key steps is paramount to not having a bear knock on your door late at night. If you leave garbage anywhere they’ll find it. Keep garbage inside, freeze smelly stuff and take the trash out often. All they want is food and if they get it, they’ll be back, time and time again, so the rest is now up to you. While more expensive, locking steel garbage containers keep bears out and all you need to do is look at the one in my driveway. Scarred and rusty with teeth and claw marks, it’s a testament to the tenacity of a hungry black bear, and it proves that if they can’t get at it, they don’t come back. Better get on that list.