Earth Issues

Less attractants mean less bear-human conflicts

 | July 26, 2010

This year, the Bear Aware program will be available in Sun Peaks through the Thompson Nicola Regional District (TNRD) to help residents and guests learn how to identify and manage bear attractants in the community.

TNRD Bear Aware community coordinator Katelyn Leitch will visit 10 communities in the TNRD throughout the summer, including Sun Peaks, to educate everyone on the nuances of living in bear country. She will be at the Sun Peaks Farmer’s Market to meet people, answer questions and hand out Bear Aware pamphlets to guests.

Educating the community is important. Some people may not be aware of habits that may seem harmless elsewhere but could be problematic when you’re living in bear habitat.

“The main attractant to a bear is garbage,” said Leitch. Garbage, although not a natural food source, becomes an easy alternative for bears when they’re hungry and desperate for immediate food sources.
Summer is a great time for barbecues. But when the meal is over, clean up responsibly. “We always tell people you can cook on your barbecue but make sure you burn off the grease. Don’t leave any food outside.”

And that also goes for pet food. “Bears love pet food because it’s high calorie. It’s so easy to get at,” said Leitch. “(If you have a cat) just put enough food outside for one feeding. If the cat comes and goes, just leave it inside because you’ll probably have a bear up on your deck if you don’t.”

“Bird feeders are huge. Almost everyone I talk to in my presentations have one. If you want birds, get a bird bath. When the bears are asleep then you can put your bird feeders out.”

The biggest cause of bear mortality in Sun Peaks is food conditioning and habituation. A bear that’s conditioned with garbage and becomes accustomed to humans is a bad combination. When it’s hungry, the bear will return to the food source even if it’s in somebody’s backyard. Often, when a bear becomes a menace to the community, the conservation officer has little choice but to destroy the bear.

When disposing of garbage at the Sun Peaks Transfer Station, never leave garbage outside of the metal containers or the gate. Doing this only contributes to the habituation and destruction of bears.

The Sun Peaks transfer station is open five days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and closed on Tuesdays and Fridays. The transfer station also accepts recycling. On days when it’s closed, you can head to the Heffley Landfill. It’s open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Wednesdays and Thursdays.

The biggest solution is prevention. If bears don’t associate humans with food, there’ll be less human-bear conflicts. Reporting bear sightings to the RAPP line is one preventative measure. Reported sightings provide information to Bear Aware coordinators and conservation officers so they can formulate a plan to stop a bear from becoming a problem. Reporting a bear sighting doesn’t necessarily mean a bear will be destroyed.

Leitch is also looking for volunteers in the community to deliver programs such as door-to-door information dissemination or presentations. Volunteers can either participate in just one event or commit to a longer term arrangement.

Contact Katelyn Leitch at 250-828-2551 or the RAPP line: 1-877-952-7277.

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