BC Conservation Officers in Vanderhoof say bears are going to be waking up any day now and residents need to keep “their bird feeders, garbage, pet food, fruit trees, and all other attractants secured in a bear proof manner.”
“Springtime is one of the highest conflict times with bears in populated areas,” Amber Elliott, conservation officer in Vanderhoof said.
Bears are waking up across the province, and Elliott said tracks have been identified in the snow in Fort Nelson.
Hunters are reporting sightings in Harrison, and Prince George Conservation Officers received their first bear call of the season on March 31.
As there isn’t much food available for bears in spring, Elliott said, this situation causes an increase in human and wildlife contact because hungry bears move into populated areas in order to obtain ‘food rewards’ such as garbage, pet food, and bird feeders.
Bears are adaptable and driven by their stomachs, the conservation officer said.
“A single bird feeder contains thousands of high-value calories so it’s no surprise that bears are driven to access food sources such as this. We have a constant battle throughout the year trying to keep bears out of residential areas but even more so, when no natural food is available,” she said.
Once a bear receives a food reward, they try to access that food source again. “Eventually a bear may reach a level of food conditioning and habituation to humans, where they are then deemed a public safety risk,” Elliott said.
As a result of this, ‘sadly’, the conservation officer service may have to euthanize multiple bears in town every spring and fall, “and they are replaced by more bears as long as people continue to not secure attractants,” the conservation officer said.
Meanwhile, relocation of food-conditioned bears who have been deemed a public safety risk is not an option.
Elliott said that bears have been proven to travel hundreds of kilometres to get back to where they came from.
So, the conservation officer recommends the following to residents:
- Keep your garbage indoors or in a shed until garbage day.
- If not possible, it must be kept very close to the house and secured in a manner inaccessible to wildlife while keeping in mind that bears are very strong.
- Bird feeders should be removed and remain down until next winter.
Also, Elliott said, officers will continue to issue Dangerous Wildlife Protection Orders and violation tickets in an attempt to reduce attractant issues in Prince George, Fraser Lake, Fort St. James, and Vanderhoof.
Penalties may be up to $575 or an appearance in court.