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Garbage bears can be dangerous

A black bear goes through the garbage in a West Kelowna neighbourhood - contributed
A black bear goes through the garbage in a West Kelowna neighbourhood
— image credit: contributed

Calling to report abnormal or aggressive bear behaviour in your neighbourhood is not what results in dead bears—it’s the people who attract them who are responsible for the death of those bears says conservation officer Terry Myroniuk.

He admits that having to put down bears who have become a threat to people and property is the worst part of his job. “I hate to have to pull the trigger,” he says.

However, he says he would feel far worse if there weren’t complaints about a bear in a neighbourhood who had become aggressive—so the CO service wasn’t aware of a possible problem—and then that bear’s behaviour escalated until it resulted in someone being attacked or injured. The Report all Poachers and Polluters toll-free line is: 1-877-952-7277.

So, while he doesn’t want people to report sightings of bears who are spotted in greenbelts or who are not behaving abnormally, he also warns people that if they don’t report an aggressive bear to the CO service call centre, COs don’t become aware that there could be a problem in a particular neighbourhood.

Abnormal behaviour includes day-active bears who are snooping close to houses; bears who are following people or showing an interest in them; bears guarding garbage, since it’s not a natural food source, and who can’t be scared away from it, or bears who act aggressively or huff at people.

When people don’t report such behaviour because they’re concerned the animal will be killed, they can be putting their whole community at risk, he said.

Myroniuk says there are a number of local hotspots where there have been a number of bear complaints in the past week or so, but the worst is West Kelowna Estates, in the areas of Westlake Road and Scott Crescent.

A sow and her two cubs were treed on Hants Road off Westlake Road on Tuesday, but eventually got down and left the area; and there have been complaints of both a large black on Scott and a small black bear in the area around Rose Valley elementary school.

“They go into hyper fascia, or heightened feeding at this time of year to prepare for hibernation,” explained Myroniuk.

Shorter days and cooler nights in September and October cause bears to want to fatten up by feeding most of their waking hours, particularly focussing on high-calorie foods, to prepare for their winter sleep.

That’s often when they wander into areas of human settlement where ripe fruit, pet food, bird feeders and garbage provide a banquet of easy pickings for them.

“They can spend a half hour getting a few berries in the wild or five minutes getting a feed out of someone’s garbage,” explained Myroniuk.

Residents who don’t store their garbage indoors until as close as possible to when the garbage is collected can be charged if that is attracting bears. A dangerous wildlife protection order can result in a $575 fine for the first offence, said Myroniuk.

He would like to see Bear Aware program coordinators working in this region, to help educate people about how to prevent human-bear conflicts, but it requires community interest in bringing the program to the area.

Bear Aware is a B.C. Conservation Foundation program that can be brought to a community in several different ways. Anyone interested can learn more by going to the website at: www.bearaware.bc.ca

The presence of bears along creeks where kokanee are spawning before completing their life cycle by dying is normal, but it can also be dangerous for people, so the main trail in Hardy Falls Regional Park has been closed because of bear activity in the area.

Anyone found within the closed area of a park can face at $500 fine. The park remains open up to the first bridge, and interpretive programs will continue adjacent to the washroom area of the park on the weekend.

 

jsteeves@kelownacapnews.com

 

 

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