Steeves/Trail Mix: With spring come bears and high water

There's good and bad in everything, and spring is no exception, but there are some steps you can take to mitigate the bad.

Fields of spring sunflowers

The sandals are out of the closet, the snowboots are put away and the creeks are rising.

The forecast is for the first summery weekend of the year, with temperatures in the high 20s and nothing but sunshine and blue skies—and I’m ready.

Fields of sunny yellow spring sunflowers, vermillion paintbrush and the first blue lupines are a delight to the eyes and the sound of songbirds trilling their songs of romance—and sometimes a tussle over a mate—is a delight to the ears.

Heck, it’s just good to feel the sun on my bare skin, see a bit of daylight before breakfast and after supper, and watch my lettuce grow.

After this warmer weekend, however, some of us may be watching the water creep over our lawns from the nearest creek or from Okanagan Lake, as a snowpack that’s 20 per cent deeper than normal finally begins to melt.

As that runoff makes its way down from high elevations around the valley, it will rush down creek-beds that are already swollen to the top of the banks with late low-elevation snowmelt and rain.

The word flood sounds disastrous, but in fact, every few years a combination of circumstances is likely to result in creeks rising higher than their banks, and sometimes in Okanagan Lake rising above what’s called full pool, and inundating a few basements.

If there’s an above-normal snowpack that’s a bit late beginning to melt; or that begins to melt all at once instead of gradually, the melting runoff could be substantial enough that it’s more than can be held by creekbeds.

If there’s a rainstorm during snowmelt, particularly sustained rainfall, adding that to melting snow running off into creeks can also be more than they can take without overflowing.

And, because Okanagan Lake is part of a complex, controlled chain of waterways, if there’s an unexpected amount of runoff, it’s difficult to change the way the lake is managed quickly. It’s a big ship to turn around in a hurry.

It’s actually much easier to control wildlife than water.

Since their needs are pretty basic, our job is not to fulfill those needs, in order to not attract them into our yards. With deer, that means not growing roses and tulips and many other favourite plants, so it’s a bit problematic, but with bears, we just have to stop putting out our garbage for them.

They have a very sensitive sense of smell and an incredible memory for food sources, so we only need to trip up a time or two and we’ve signed their death sentence.

Instead of being lazy, we must keep our trash out of their reach until the last possible moment before the garbage truck comes to pick it up. Once they become used to pawing through garbage for their food, they’ll never be satisfied to return to scrounging in the wild, and more than likely they’ll become more and more bold until they begin to break into houses for it, endangering people as well as destroying property in the process.

If you were part of the conspiracy of residents responsible for the death of two black bears in West Kelowna this week, and you don’t feel any guilt about their untimely deaths, then consider how you would feel if they hadn’t yet been killed.

Instead, your youngster or grandchild was gaily skipping off to school one morning when that bear smelled the sandwich from the lunchbox in a backpack and attacked the child to get at it. How would you feel then?

And, if that doesn’t get you, how about a fine of $600 for every time you attract bears by leaving out your garbage or pet food?

The choice is yours.

Judie Steeves writes about outdoors issues for the Capital News.


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