Help banish the bear-bait

An indepth look at bears and berries in the region.

Black bears

Black bears

You can tell a person where the fruit is but you can’t make them pick. The one’s who always seem to be around and picking at this time of year are the ones with the heavy black coats – that is, if we don’t beat them to buffet.

Apples, pears, plums, apricots… pretty much the same stuff we grow and consume, are bear magnets and it’s no surprise the omnivores would enjoy the fruits as much as we do.

The problem is – we want them coming into town as seldom as possible. Large, powerful, hungry wild animals  are obviously not desired in back yards… but ripening and rotting fruit rolls out an irresistible welcome mat.That scenario is as much a part of this time of year as are halloween preparations.

One of the strongest tactics in dealing with the seasonal dilemma is being coordinated by local Bear Aware person Betty Offin.

On the job four the past four years, Offin is always happy to hear from people interesting in picking, as well as property owners who have more fruit than they can deal with.The idea is to get the stuff off the trees and off the ground, leaving the peckish bears to look elsewhere for the cuisine they crave ahead of their annual hibernation.As well as serving with the Bear Aware program, Offin does duty with the Kootenay Food Strategy Society, essentially, the community garden effort.”I coordinate a food harvest/rescue program,” said Betty on Sept. 12. “If anyone’s got fruit they can’t manage, they’ve got too much of, I can register them and line them up with volunteers who are willing to pick it.”The fruit/bear issue a curious and unfortunate one, given the amount of quality food that routinely goes unpicked by people.Offin described a situation from a previous year, when a thousand pounds of cherries from Creston were donated to the local food bank. The gift coincided with breakdown of the cooler at the food bank.”It took over a day to try and give away all those cherries,” Offin related. “There aren’t that many people who are into canning.”This is a great climate for growing certain fruits and what in years gone by may have been considered a bonanza, can now turn into a problem as branches sag with the load of plump fruits.Those with sufficient energy and initiative can benefit by showing up and taking an edible asset off the hands of a grateful property owner.”They’re being given quite a gift here,” Offin explained. “Because big apples can be a dollar a piece at the store, and you’re getting boxes and boxes for nothing.”Offin coaches pickers to be as thorough as possible, and carefully rake up after themselves before leaving the scene. This sort of effort, along with careful composting, can help mitigate the annual attraction of bears to our community. That means less fear on our part… and fewer bears losing their lives, as well.If you happen to be on either side of the local seasonal fruit formula… looking to acquire,  or liquidate… Betty Offin will welcome your contact.To line something up, call 250-365-0374.