Be bear aware in regional parks

Central Okanagan Regional District warning public about potential bear encounters.

With people returning this week to several interface-area regional parks that were closed due to the fire hazard, the Central Okanagan Regional District is receiving more reports about bear sightings.

And visitors are being warned they could encounter wildlife at any time.

But this time of year, the more natural regional parks require more bear awareness, says RDCO spokesman Bruce Smith.

As Kokanee salmon spawn and fruit is ripening in orchards across the Central Okanagan, evidence of bear activity increases as their search for food brings them into the valley from the higher elevations, he said.

Evidence that bears are around is already occurring along the Mission Creek Greenway, in Mission Creek and Scenic Canyon regional parks. They’re also known to frequent other more natural regional parks like Woodhaven Nature Conservancy, Bertram Creek, Johns Family Nature Conservancy, Kalamoir, Glen Canyon and Rose Valley.

“Every year around this time, our parks staff and visitors start seeing and reporting bears in some of our regional parks,” said Smith. “As sightings increase, we post signs advising that the animals may be active in the area and visitors should be aware.”

He said to reduce your chance of encountering a bear you should travel in a group, make noise or carry something that makes noise.

During the fall fish-spawning season, park visitors may encounter bears along local creeks and rivers, because the Kokanee are a plentiful food source. So be aware that bears fishing for food may not hear you over the noise of the creek water. If you see a bear, give it plenty of space and stay well away.

People should respect all bears and anticipate and avoid encounters with them whenever possible, advises the regional district in a release put out Thursday. Bears can be aggressive, especially when defending their food or their cubs. They also have excellent senses of smell and hearing, and better sight than you might believe.

Dog owners are reminded when in regional parks that their pets must be leashed and kept on trails at all times. It’s not only the law, but will help avoid any potentially serious wildlife encounters.

This weekend, WildSafeBC Okanagan Westside, Regional Parks and Hiking Addiction are holding a nature walk and bear spray demonstration at Rose Valley Regional Park. It will go Sunday (Sept. 17) from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and you’ll learn about safety around wildlife and get hands-on practice using inert bear spray. Contact Andrea Tait atokwestside@wildsafebc.com to register for this event.

The regional district says residents have a role to play on their property too by keeping any garbage securely stored and wheeling their garbage carts out only on the morning of their regular curbside collection. That will help reduce the potential temptation for bears or other wildlife.