–Debbie Read, Wild Wise Sooke
As spring arrives and bears are heading out of hibernation, Wild Wise Sooke recommends it’s time for residents to brush up on their bear-aware skills to ensure positive co-existence between bears and human residents.
Black bears typically come out of hibernation in April. The bears wake up and come out from their den after picking up various cues from their surroundings, including the amount of daylight, the temperature, and the barometric pressure. As black bears become active in the spring, they are on a mission to find food.
They move to lower elevations for the spring green-up and look for food along the way.
It takes a few weeks for the bear’s digestive system to return to normal, biologists say. The bear has been in the den for months without eating, defecating or urinating; the stomach and digestive system is empty, so the bear starts out eating dry grass or roughage to activate its digestive system.
People need to be vigilant in terms of securing all their attractants like food and garbage. These attractants can lure bears in to the community. Smaller animals like rodents, rats, mice, raccoons can also lured in by garbage. Then causing predators like, cougars and wolves to also be attracted.
The most effective and natural way to prevent conflicts with wildlife in urban areas is to put away garbage, birdseed, compost, pet food. Communities where attractants are managed properly have less human-wildlife conflicts and fewer animals destroyed
Knowing what attracts bears is the definition for being bear aware.
Often, humans unintentionally feed bears by being unaware that the garbage left outside, dog food they left in a bowl by the back door, or the bird feeder they just filled or the grill where they recently barbecued some chicken is exactly what has attracted a bear.
Bears go to great lengths to try to get human food because they get so many more calories from garbage than they can from picking berries or eating grass. The main problem is bears can detect scents more than two miles away. Bears are attracted to anything that smells like food, the first important thing for humans to know. Bears also have excellent memories. Bears will often return year after year to places where they were provided food, even if the food was provided unintentionally.
Feeding bears makes them comfortable around people, which also makes them dangerous. When bears lose their fear of people, they approach people in search of food or may defend the food source or territory they associate with people.
Becoming habituated, the bears will only seek that food and associates people’s homes with human food. When they start entering people’s yards for food, often there is no other choice but to destroy that animal… If you remove the food source the bear has no reason to be there.
Some simple steps can be taken to avoid negative bear interactions. If a bear walks through your property and no food reward is given, the bear will move along on its own.
Always store garbage in a garage or in a secure building . When Garbage is left in people’s yards, bears will get into it. It takes is one container to be left outside, for a bear to realize that is where to get food. Never place your garbage curbside the night before collection as bears forage at night. To help reduce odours, consider freezing smelly items such as kitchen scraps, meat and bones and place in the garbage on the morning of collection.
Backyard bird feeders should be taken down from April through November. A number of calls received about bears, involve a bird feeder that has been visited multiple times. Taking the feeder down before a bear finds it can eliminate future problems. Birds eat a different diet than bears, and can find buds, worms and pine cone seeds in the early spring,
Pet food and livestock feed should be stored inside barns or homes. It is recommended that animals be fed only enough food for one meal to avoid attracting wild animals. Electric fencing is a sure way to protect your livestock and chickens.
People need to be vigilant securing attractants, knowing how to prevent a conflict is the first step to coexisting with wildlife. No one wants to turns a corner and bump into a bear in their garbage.
Feeding bears makes them comfortable around people, which also makes them dangerous. When bears lose their fear of people, they approach people in search of food or may defend the food source or territory they associate with people. When this happens, we have conflicts with the bears.
The Conservation Officer Service (COS) has a 24 hour call centre to report wildlife sightings or encounters. It’s helpful for the COS to be aware of the wildlife activity and the calls are an important source of information. If the public does not call until the behaviour of animal is too far gone, it can limit the opportunity for proactive measures and the situation can then become a public safety concern.
The call centre’s phone number is 1-877-952-7277
Debbie Read, Urban Wildlife Conflict Specialist
WILD WISE SOOKE
Be Bear Wise
Keeping our community safe and wildlife wild
Visit Wild Wise Sooke online
- Reminder from Wild Wise Sooke: Manage your fruit trees, be bear aware
- Bear Aware Reminder: Garbage management, bylaws, and fines
- Fifth bear killed in Sooke
- Recent bear kills (4) attributed to human-generated attractants
- As fruit ripens, non-habituated bears will move into the forests
- Increased bear sightings, what you need to know, and how to keep bears alive
- Bear sightings at Potholes, between parking lots 3 and 2
- How bears communicate (Video)
- A sure sign of spring for residents of Sooke is the return of bears.
- Bear in Area signs emerge from hibernation