The Kelowna Conservation Officers Service is asking residents to be wary of leaving out unprotected garbage after the wildlife agency received 129 reports in August of bears accessing exposed trash, subsequently jeopardizing public safety.
“People aren’t the only creatures being pushed around by the fires,” said Kelowna conservation officer Ken Owen.
“With the recent wildfires within the Okanagan, bears and other wildlife that live in the adjacent forest fringe areas to our communities have suddenly been displaced.”
Owens noted that once a bear obtains discarded foods from garbage, it will become single-minded and more determined to access food sources, even going as far as to break into homes.
“Bears that become highly food-conditioned and habituated to humans are often destroyed because of concerns for human safety,” he said.
Under the Wildlife Act, he said that conservation officers can issue dangerous wildlife protection orders (DWPO) if food attractants — such as garbage — pose a significant safety risk by drawing bears into public areas.
“The DWPO directs the person in charge of a premise to move or remove food attractants within a reasonable time,” said Owens. “Failing to abide by the terms of a DWPO may result in a violation ticket or further follow up.”
He added that Kelowna conservation officers will be joined by the West Kelowna Wildsafe BC Coordinator in conducting bear attractant audits within the City of Kelowna and West Kelowna and the Central Okanagan Regional District (CORD), where they will be enforcing the Wildlife Act and educating the public in removing or securing non-natural attractants.
“These bears, when relocated, often return to their original home territory or become ‘problem’ animals in other communities,” he said.
“In addition, translocated wildlife often fail to adapt to their new habitat and, as a result, may starve to death or be killed by the animals that already occupy the area.”
He offered the following tips to prevent one’s garbage from being accessed by bears:
- Keep all garbage securely stored until collection day. Store attractants in a sturdy building or place in a certified bear-resistant garbage container.
- Manage your fruit/nut trees and berry bushes responsibly. Pick ripe and fallen fruit/nuts daily. Remove unused fruit/nut trees. Install bear electric fencing which is cheap and portable.
- Bird feeders often become bear-feeders, so only feed birds during the winter months.
- Take feeders down between April and November. 1 kg of birdseed equals 6,600 calories. Keep ground free of seeds.