WildSafeBC hoping for headstart on spring programs

WildSafeBC tries to reduce human-wildlife conflict through education

It seems like spring is getting a head start in Castlegar and so too is WildSafeBC.

The program, which strives to reduce human-wildlife conflict through education and attractant management, typically starts in May but this year the City of Castlegar has made an early start possible.

The 2013 season was one of the quietest in the past decade in terms of bear activity and human-bear conflict.

According to Jenny Wallace, WildSafeBC Community Coordinator, that is no reason to expect the same in 2014.

“Often after a season of abundant natural foods like we had in 2013, there will be more cubs born the following spring. With this potential increase in the number of bears seeking food in our community, it is critical that we start the season off right by keeping all attractants inaccessible,” she said.

In the next couple of weeks, black bears will start to emerge from Castlegar area dens and many will head to low-elevation valley bottoms in search of early spring foods like grasses and skunk cabbage.

“This annual spring influx of bears does not need to equal increased conflict” said Wallace. “As long as the bears are not tempted by unnatural foods like garbage, pet food or birdseed, they will soon move back up to higher elevation habitat as they follow the green-up of their natural foods.”

By managing backyard attractants and making them inaccessible to bears now, conflict later in the season can be prevented. A bear only needs to stumble upon garbage once to start a pattern of food conditioning – a pattern that all too often ends in the destruction of the bear. This pattern can be avoided by preventing that initial garbage encounter.

But bears are not the only wildlife species to demand our attention in the spring. Raccoons are in the midst of breeding season right now and may be more active and a bit bolder in town. Proper attractant management prevents most conflicts with raccoons but it is still a good idea to keep pets inside at night, especially cats. Raccoons can seriously injure a cat or dog if cornered or threatened.

Ticks are another species to consider at this time of year. Wallace has received more reports of ticks than any other species during the first couple of weeks on the job.

“Tick season is definitely underway in the West Kootenay. It’s no reason to avoid the bush, just something to be aware of and check for after every hike!” Although rare, ticks can carry dangerous diseases and care should be taken to avoid bites. Wear long sleeves and pants when hiking in the bush and do a thorough check of yourself, children and dogs after spring hikes.

For more information on local wildlife activity, contact WildSafeBC Community Coordinator Jenny Wallace at 1-250-365-8971 or castlegar@wildsafebc.com. You can also find updates on local wildlife activity on Facebook: WildSafeBC Castlegar.

To report a wildlife conflict, call the Conservation Officer hotline at 1-877-952-7277.