Remove attractants as bears wake from winter sleep

Maple Ridge Black Bear Society asks residents to secure garbage, pet food

By Neil Corbett

The newly minted Maple Ridge Black Bear Society is warning the public that bears are rising from their winter sleep, and it’s an important time to keep them from developing poor feeding habits.

When her group is called upon to deal with a human-bear conflict, too often it is because the bear has found garbage or some other ready food source, said Leah Cooke, executive director.

“99 per cent of the time, it’s pretty obvious why bears were attracted to a property,” she said.

Her group offers education to the public about how to avoid run-ins with bears, and they are part of a large network in the province. The BC Bear Alliance is a collective of non-profits and charities working together to advocate on behalf of bears, asks residents to help spread the message that it’s everyone’s responsibility to be bear smart.

“Attractants are the root of most negative encounters between humans and black bears,” said Lesley Fox, executive director of The Fur-Bearers, a member group of the BC Bear Alliance. “By directly addressing these issues in our neighbourhoods and communities, we can quickly reduce the often deadly outcomes that bears face for accessing human-created attractants.”

Attractants like bird feeders, dirty barbecues and unsecure trash are beacons for animals like black bears. ‘A fed bear is a dead bear’ remains an unfortunate truth in British Columbia.

The BC Conservation Officer Service, which respond to reports of negative encounters with some wildlife, killed 524 black bears in their last reporting year. Statistics for their fiscal year, ending this week, are only complete through January 2022, but they report 495 black bears killed by officers. This does not include bears killed by legal or illegal hunting, road collisions and other causes of mortality.

They recommend walking your property to look for attractants. Taking down bird feeders, moving pet food indoors, and securing trash appropriately. People with chickens or livestock will have to take more measures.

Residents are encouraged to share information and resources to help communities coexist with bears and other wildlife at BearSmart.com and TheFurBearers.com.