–Debbie Read, Wild Wise Sooke
We currently have a lots of bears roaming the streets of Sooke and a lot of ripe apples and fruit trees attracting them to town. September has arrived, the days are getting shorter, nights cooler and fresh fruit is ripening in the trees.
September is when bears have more or less depleted the black berries and other native food sources in the forested hills. Apples and other fruit bearing trees begin to ripen, and become the next food choice for hungry bears. In preparation for hibernation a bear’s appetite will increase during the fall where they will feed for up to 20 hours a day in order to pack on enough pounds to survive the winter.
This increased feeding phase is called hyperpahgia. They can consume up to 20,000 calories per day, which is equal to a human eating 50 hamburgers per day.
Fruit attracts bears to our backyards, increases potential interaction, bear habituation, and resulting human/wildlife conflict.
Attracting bears to your yard can also result in opportunistic bears obtaining other human foods such as garbage, pet food, bird feeders and compost. Once they have become habituated (aka no longer fear or try to avoid humans) and human-food conditioned, they will strive to continue that behavior. Seeking out easy food sources is the motivating factor.
Domestic fruit trees are not a natural source of food for bears. They are acknowledged as an bear attractant, and bring bears into our community. You may not mind if a bear feasts on your fruit, but what you are doing is not only dangerous, it is an offence to feed wildlife, under the British Columbia Wildlife Act and District of Sooke Bylaw No. 392. These bears become used to humans and our surroundings, and they become more bold in exploring urban areas. Though you may tolerate a bear’s presence, your neighbours may not.
Be Bear Wise if you want to keep our wildlife and fruit trees too!
The responsibility to have both fruit trees and wildlife sustainability falls to us. We plant fruit trees primarily for the beauty of the blossoms in the spring and to eat the sweet fruit in the fall. Owning a fruit tree in bear country is a big responsibility. An effective solution does exists.
Remove the fruit as soon as it begins to ripen and bring it indoors. If you have more than you can eat, make a pie for your neighbor, or consider donating the excess to local food bank or people in need.
Or, post your information on the Sooke Farm Market Facebook page a platform for Sooke residents to swaa, sell and share their garden abundance, supplies, and get help with harvesting and preserving.
These options allow us to keep our blossoms and wildlife too.
As the community continues to expand, bears and humans are forced to live closer together. It is our responsibility to behave proactively and ensure safety in the community and coexistence for humans and wildlife alike. Taking a responsible approach to attractant management is a critical component of this goal.
Wild Wise Sooke is a proactive conservation strategy that encourages efforts by all to reduce negative human-wildlife interactions. “Keep wildlife wild—and our communities safe.”