A large black bear eating dandelions near Helmcken Falls in Wells Gray Park.

BearAware program ready to come out of hibernation

Reducing human-bear conflicts chief goal of the educational program

With the arrival of spring weather, bears and humans will soon be meeting each other on roadways, trails, and both urban and rural settings.

As news story after news story will attest, the arrival of a bear into close proximity with humans often ends badly for the bear.

BearAware is an educational program owned by the British Columbia Conservation Foundation, with funding support from various levels of government and private organizations.

Those involved in the program work with municipalities, regional districts, local societies and volunteer groups to try and reduce the number of conflicts between bears and humans.

Frank Ritcey, provincial BearAware co-ordinator based in Kamloops, said bear activity is increasing near the coast but here in the Kootenay and throughout the interior it’s usually the first week of May when they start to come out in force. A local coordinator will also be getting out into the community in May,

“The thing that brings bears out in the spring, is not so much the weather but their fat stores,” said Ritcey who was reached by telephone. “If they go into hibernation with a really good, heavy layer of fat they can stay in much longer but if they go in and don’t have enough fat on them, it may cause them to come out earlier.”

Ritcey said most bears are pretty skinny when they come out of hibernation, losing up to about 30 per cent of their body weight in a winter.

“If the hillsides there don’t green up quickly, then the bears won’t have food to eat and they will come into town,” he said. “People have to be cognizant of that, if it’s a late cold spring and there is not a lot of food for the bears.”

BearAware is also supported by many other sponsors and volunteers. To lend a hand, contact Ritcey at the BC Conservation Foundation in Kamloops at 250-828-2551, email at bearawareprogram@bccf.com or visit the webpage for a list of local contacts at www.bearaware.bc.ca.

To report problem wildlife or bears in an urban setting call the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277.

 

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