Bears seek food before hibernation
People need to stay vigilant of bears in the fall by ensuring their neighbourhoods are free from attractants, warns the Thompson-Nicola Regional District.
The number of bear sightings around Merritt has increased over the last several weeks, the TNRD stated.
“Now that they’ve eaten the berry crops in the hills, they are starting to come to town, especially with the fruit on people’s trees,” TNRD Bear Aware Community Co-ordinator Emily Lomas said. “When we get calls, the two major things we hear is that they are going through garbage or fruit trees, especially this time of year.”
The bears are often rummaging around in search of garbage, bird feed, compost and unpicked fruit, in an attempt to gain weight for hibernation, which usually begins near the end of November.
The TNRD sometimes sends workers to tag the garbages of people who leave the bins overnight. The tag tells the owner about the dangers of taking out the trash the night before garbage day.
“Having it not on the street, but next to your house, doesn’t really make a difference to a bear,” Lomas added.
She said people can leave the garbage in their home, clean the garbage bin or put stinky trash in the freezer before tossing it.
Environment Minister Terry Lake said the province wants to treat euthanizing bears as a last resort.
“It’s so very important to keep British Columbians — and our bears — safe, and the key to accomplishing this is to minimize the risks of conflict,” she said in a release. “We all share responsibility for making sure this happens, especially by making sure we don’t provide bears with non-natural food sources.”
Merritt consists of a lot of garbage and fruit ripe for picking, and this attracts bears from throughout the Nicola Valley.
Many bears understand that houses mean they can find high-calorie food necessary for the bears’ winter survival.
The Ministry of Environment also wants people to be aware of the potential for human-bear conflicts.
The TNRD wants people to follow these steps to be bear aware:
• Store garbage inside or in a bear-proof container until disposal • Do not put garbage outside the night before pickup
• Pick fruit and berries from trees and shrubs
• If you have more fruit than you can handle, ask your friends and neighbours if they’d like to pick some for themselves and share
• Feed pets inside and store pet food indoors
• Use bird feeders only during winter months
• Mix compost regularly or treat with lime to reduce odour
• Keep barbecues clean and free of residual food and grease.
Visit beaeraware.bc.ca to learn more about how to be safe and keep bears out of the community.
The program is administered through the Ministry’s Bear Smart Community Program.
The Bear Aware program has the aim of reducing the number of human-bear conflicts throughout the province.
Black bears typically hibernate for three to five months in B.C.