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Efforts urged to keep bears from populated areas in Okanagan and Similkameen

Garbage, fruit and compost smells attract bears
Smells of garbage, fruit and compost can serve to attract bears to populated areas. (Black Press file photo)

Hungry bears are coming to communities in the Okanagan and Similkameen in their quest for food.

Earlier this month, a bear was seen in downtown Keremeos on the morning of Aug. 9, and other sightings are expected to follow during the late summer and into the fall.

Shelley Fiorito, the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen community coordinator for Wildsafe B.C., said the smells of garbage, ripe fruit and compost can all serve to attract bears. In addition, the same food smells that attract bears also attract rats and other animals.

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“Garbage is the biggest attractant for bears in the valley,” she said, adding that residents should set out their garbage for collection on the morning it is to be picked up, not the night before. Garbage containers should be kept in a secure area, not left outside where they are easy to access.

Those who have backyard fruit trees are urged to pick the fruit as it ripens and not to leave overripe fruit on the trees or on the ground around their fruit trees. Fiorito said maintaining fruit trees also serves to reduce pest problems which can affect commercial orchards in the area.

She added that those with backyard gardens should take similar precautions to remove overripe fruit and vegetables.

Compost can also be an attractant for bears and other animals, but Fiorito said it is simple to manage a backyard compost bin.

Those who have backyard chickens are urged to keep the feed in a secure area, as it can also attract bears and other wildlife.

READ ALSO: ‘Just carnage’: Bears break-in and massacre chickens in Penticton

In spring, bears entered a backyard chicken coop in the West Bench area near Penticton, killing the chickens. Fiorito believes the smell of the feed drew the bears to this coop.

While preventable bear encounters continue to occur each year, Fiorito believes education can help to reduce these numbers.

She said at present, newcomers have been moving to the region, relocating from areas where bear encounters are not common.

“There are a lot of new people who aren’t familiar with the wildlife and residential interface,” she said.

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John Arendt

About the Author: John Arendt

John Arendt has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years. He has a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism degree from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
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