Officials remind the public to be mindful of when and where they’re putting out their garbage – the No. 1 attractant for bears.
“It’s a very complex problem when you have a bear that is food-conditioned to non-natural attractants in close proximity to residences. Those bears, they just continually work to try and get that garbage and it creates a public safety situation,” said James Zucchelli, a conservation officer in the South Okanagan zone.
Zucchelli says once bears become habituated in an area with non-natural attractants like garbage and their behaviours become a safety issue, conservation officers have to step in.
“So, when they start trying to break into sheds, trying to break into enclosures, trying to get to attractants and then the evolution of it is, they start to break into houses. At that point, when we have a continual garbage-conditioned bear in a particular area and it starts to break that barrier, it starts to go towards breaking into enclosures and structures. That’s when we make the decision,” said Zucchelli about having to put shoot problem bears.
Officers are almost always forced to euthanize the animals; relocation is rarely an effective option, he said.
“If people would manage their attractants, conservation officers would not have to be put in a situation of having to euthanize wild animals in these communities. It’s a very, very tough decision for conservation officers to have to make and we don’t make those decisions lightly and there’s a lot of factors that go into that decision,” said Zucchelli.
Last year alone, WildSafe BC, in the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, received at least 500 reports of black bears in the area, and there’s been an uptick in reports so far this year.
“It’s been a very busy spring season, absolutely, it’s been a very busy season,” said Shelley Fiorito, RDOS WildSafe BC community co-ordinator.
“Across the region, there are a number of areas that are already concerned with bear activity, so it’s definitely a very busy spring.”
Fiorito says the increase in bear sightings is caused by last year’s wildfire season and heat dome that damaged food supplies for bears, which forced them down to the valley bottom.
She said an ongoing turnover of new residents who may be unaware of how to deal with wildlife properly has also added to the problem.
For information on how to reduce bear attractants, visit WildSafe BC.