Bear sightings in the Pacific North West are on the rise. Recently, BC Conservation Officers announced they’ve had to destroy a record number of habituated bears. The main contributing factor to this is we have built our homes where they roam, feed, and slumber.
Anyone who knows me (or has seen our son’s nursery) knows I have a love of all things bear. Logan’s room is filled with bears, I have a tattoo of a Panda, and I often dream about them. Is that weird?
A typical black bear will have a home range of roughly 100km. The neighbourhood my family and I live in is 30 years old. Our local black bears are habituated to people. This means they have learned how to grab a quick snack from unsecured compost and garbage bins or raid our gardens and bird feeders. Later this summer we will be moving to a newly developed area that boarders a research forest and provincial park. These local bears will not be as acclimated to the presence of humans…yet. It is vital that homeowners in new subdivisons manage their waste, recycling and gardens responsibly so those bears don’t become habituated as well.
Below are a few bear aware tips for city dwellers that I’ve learned throughout my education, work and life experience. Most of them will be common sense, or a friendly reminder. However, they bear (see what I did there) repeating because every summer/fall the same issues rise.
- Don’t feed the bears. It’s a saying for a reason.
- Keep away 30 metres at all times (3 school buses).
- Don’t stop on side of road to take photos, you’ll cause a what’s known as a Bear Jam. These can be very dangerous for humans and bears.
- Be aware of your surroundings to avoid being caught between a mama and her cub(s).
- Don’t turn your back or run from a bear. If you see one make yourself big by putting arms in the air, speak loud and slow then back away slowly without making direct eye contact.
- Lock all outdoor garbage and compost bins or follow garbage bylaws for your municipality. In most places bylaw officers will issue tickets if garbage is outdoors before allowed time on garbage days.
- Be aware of fruit tree bylaws in your area and be responsible about picking ripe fruit.
- When in the backcountry or camping keep all food locked in car or in provided wildlife proof bins. Take ALL garbage and food home with you. (More bear aware practices for camping/hiking coming soon in a future post!)
As mentioned most of those tips are common sense but when faced with a bear instinct and our awe can take over. Habituated bears typically don’t directly interact with people and rarely attack. They are usually just passing through an area or trail looking for vegetation to eat or a cool place to nap. If you see a bear in your neighbourhood or local parks keep an eye on it and give them space. Call a Conservation Officer only if bear appears to be aggressive or is causing problems. In BC bears have a three-strike policy meaning they are relocated three times. This is denoted by tags in their ears. Three tags and the poor bear gets destroyed. Because bears have such as strong homing instinct they often find their way back to the neighbourhood within a matter of days.
For the most part bears are harmless. If you are lucky enough to come across one this summer remember to keep a cool head, give space and only snap photos if it is safe to do so. You’ll have a great story to tell.
Do you have any more tips to add to the list? Share with us in the comments!