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City of Kelowna, regional district asking area residents to be bear aware

A bear eating seed from a bird feeder in Kelowna. Paige Thompson

With autumn on the horizon, public officials in the Central Okanagan are warning residents to be bear aware.

On Thursday, both the City of Kelowna and the Regional District of the Central Okanagan issued public service announcements about the possibility of encountering bears in area parks.

Every year at this time, bears begin searching for extra food to fatten up for winter.

Read more: A fall ritual: Bear awareness warnings

As such, officials say seasonal attractants such as spawning salmon, ripening fruit and garbage result in bears visiting area parks, especially those at higher elevations.

“This is the time of year that bears make their presence known and our field staff and visitors start seeing more signs that bears are around,” said RDCO communications officer Bruce Smith.

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“As sightings and evidence of their presence increase, we post signs in several of our parks advising that bears may be active in the area.”

Added the City of Kelowna: “It’s not unusual for bear sightings to occur at this time of year and signs are in place to caution residents that bears may be in the area.”

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The regional district says the advisory applies to its 30 parks, while the city’s advisory is for Knox Mountain Park.

“While there have been no reports of bear sightings at this time,” said the city, “bear scat has been found in the area recently.”

Smith says when visiting area parks, if possible, travel in a group and make noise so bears are aware of your presence.

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“As the fall Kokanee salmon spawning season ramps up, visitors may encounter bears bulking up on this food source in local creeks and streams,” said Smith.

“Bears fishing for food may not hear you over the noise of the creek water. If you see a bear, give it plenty of space and stay well away from it.”

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Both the city and regional district say whenever possible, avoid encounters with bears, as they can be aggressive, especially when defending their food or cubs.

They also say residents also have a role to play by securely storing their garbage, which helps reduce potential food temptation.

Further, they say dog owners must have their pets leashed at all times when on trails, unless otherwise designated.

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If you spot a bear that seems to be displaying aggression, you are asked to notify the Conservation Office at 1-877-952-7277.

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