Residents need to be aware - bears are hungry!!
As the days shorten and the temperatures drop, many animals are busy preparing for winter, trying to find enough food and a good den site to survive the winter months. This annual rush of activity means we are seeing many animals like skunks, raccoons and of course, bears, coming into town, sometimes even in the middle of the day. With hibernation at least a month away for local bears, it remains extremely important for residents to keep all potential attractants inaccessible to bears.
The bear season in Castlegar this year has been a busy one, with almost 250 reports of bear sightings or conflicts called into the RAPP (Report All Poachers and Polluters) hotline since April. Improper attractant management (carelessly stored garbage, unpicked fruit, birdfeeders, etc.) have been directly responsible for many of these reports and several bears have already been destroyed as a result. Careful attractant management is absolutely essential if we wish to see the number of bears destroyed in our community reduced in the future. Furthermore, responsible attractant management is key to reducing bear-related conflicts, safety concerns, property damage, messes, frustrations, and even tensions with neighbours. No matter what your stance, attractant management makes sense! If we remove attractants from our yards, we remove the reasons bears stick around town, preventing all of sorts of conflicts.
Typically in Castlegar, garbage is the number one bear attractant, with fruit trees following close behind. This year has been no exception, with almost half of all reported conflicts being garbage-related and almost a quarter having to do with fruit trees. The other attractants, in order of significance this year, are: residential gardens, livestock, freezers, birdfeeders, pets, BBQs and composts. If not carefully managed, any of these attractants can draw hungry bears into your yard. As soon as a bear has accessed one of these foods, they will return again and again, going to greater lengths to get it the next time. Poor attractant management creates human-bear conflict and often results in the destruction of the animal. While many residents are extremely careful with bear attractants on their property, it only takes one yard with accessible garbage or fruit to create a nuisance bear.
On a positive note, Bear Aware has seen a considerable reduction in the number of houses putting garbage on the curb the night before collection. This practice creates a major bear attractant issue, allowing bears to easily access garbage under the cover of darkness. Bear Aware has been conducting curbside garbage inspections throughout the city since May, recording the number of houses with garbage on the curb the night before collection (The City of Castlegar Garbage Rates and Regulations Bylaw 705 requires that garbage cans are not to be placed at the curb before 4:00am on the morning of collection). Some neighbourhoods were also “tagged”, with bright yellow Bear Attractant stickers placed on curbside bins and others received door to door Bear Aware canvassing. In the first round of inspections in May, we found at least a dozen houses with cans on the curb in each collection area (with 3 times as many downtown). This month, five rounds of inspections later, we found no more than three houses with cans on the curb in any collection area. The reduction of this significant bear attractant issue in town is a great step towards becoming a more Bear Aware community.
Bear Aware urges residents to continue taking attractant management seriously as we enter this critical part of bear season. Bears are still obsessively seeking out food and can be found doing so in all Castlegar neighbourhoods. To ensure your yard is not attracting bears and adding to the problem, take a look around to see if there is anything in your yard that may attract a bear and do whatever you can to make it inaccessible. At the very least, make sure your garbage is securely stored indoors. Doing so will reduce conflict and help keep bears wild.
To report a bear sighting or conflict, call the RAPP hotline at 1-800-952-RAPP(7277).
For more information on attractant management, contact Bear Aware Community Coordinator Jenny Wallace at 1-250-365-8971 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.bearaware.bc.ca or Bear Aware BC on Facebook.
Bear Aware is an educational program, developed and owned by the BC Conservation Foundation (BCCF) and has been delivered throughout the province since 1999.
In Castlegar, Bear Aware is supported by Columbia Basin Trust, the BCCF, City of Castlegar, and RDCK.