Bear Aware co-ordinator Kim Drescher wants to make sure people know what happens to bears that are trapped, in an effort to move people to action.
“A lot of the bears that are trapped locally get destroyed,” Drescher said. “Relocation does not work here geographically and often it is a danger for bears to be relocated because a lot of times they may go to an area with a more dominant bear. When they are relocated they are often either killed by other bears or they starve to death.”
Conservation officer Dean Miller confirmed that local bears considered a danger are often euthanized, which he said is the more humane way to deal with the problem animals.
“It has an emotional backing because we don’t want to see bears get shot, especially cubs, but in a biological sense and in a survival sense, sometimes euthanization is better because it’s quick,” said Miller. “Whereas you could starve an animal out, especially these animals that are becoming less and less wild as soon as they get habituated and they are in our communities and they are getting easy access to human food.”
Both Miller and Dres-cher say the euthanizations could stop if the community would follow some simple steps to stop bears from getting a fix of human food.
“The number one thing and it’s a simple one, is to keep your garbage inside until garbage day,” Drescher said.
Other attractants are barbecues, outside refrigerators and freezers and bird feeders. Drescher said bears can smell a bird feeder up to a kilometre away.
“The same is true for chicken feed. They are more attracted to the feed than to the chickens,” Drescher said, adding electric fencing around coops and feed is an important deterrent.
Compost is another smell that can attract a bear and Drescher recommends homeowners sprinkle lime in their compost mixtures to avoid unwanted visitors.
“The bears don’t actually eat the compost, but the smell will bring them in,” she said.
Another smell that Drescher notes is mouth-watering to bears is that of human feces.
“They are strongly attracted to diapers and human poop,” she noted.
Another attractant, one that is starting to become a problem on the Coast, is that of unpicked fruit rotting on the ground.
Drescher reminds people to stay on top of the task or consider joining the Fruit Tree Project to get some help gathering the ripened fruit before it becomes a problem.
She hopes that the community will take time to bear proof their properties and save the animals from becoming habituated to garbage and a danger to the public.
“Relocation really doesn’t work — it’s just a reactionary response. It’s not addressing the initial problem of our attractants, which is what’s bringing us into conflict in the first place,” she said.
Last year five bears were shot and this year two have been euthanized to date; however, Miller notes that is a small percentage considering the conservation office received more than 700 calls from residents about black bears in 2011.
If you see a bear, report it to the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line at 1-877-952-7277.
Always allow a bear an escape route if you come across one and back away slowly so you do not startle it. For more tips, go to www.bearaware.bc.ca.