By Sue Davies, WildesafeBC
As expected from early numbers of bear reports, Revelstoke now has large numbers of bears roaming town and looking for food.
“Three bears have now been destroyed in Revelstoke this season,” said Sue Davies of WildSafeBC, “and if we don’t clean up the garbage and ripe fruit, more are likely to follow.”
WildsafeBC, in partnership with Revelstoke Bear Aware, are issuing a public advisory to help raise awareness of the issue, and encourage residents to manage all bear attractants.
“Look for the public advisory flyer in your mail, on public notice boards, and on social media,” said Davies. “Read the list on the flyer of all the things bears might be attracted to, then put yourself in the bears’ shoes, and look at your property as an area to forage for food. If you find anything that a bear might eat, secure it! If you don’t secure your bear attractants then the story below, which happened here just a few days ago, will unfold over and over again this season.”
A habituated black bear walked down the middle of the street in the middle of the day systematically going through garbage cans put out for collection. Probably the same bear that showed interest in entering a home in the same area. The Conservation Officer was called and a trap was set. Within the day the bear was caught and destroyed as a ‘problem bear’.
But before you get all riled up about the Conservation Officers having to shoot this bear, consider the history of this bear and the reason it is in this situation in the first place.
It was probably living a wild life accessing all sorts of wild foods with a healthy respect for humans and the danger they posed to it, when it noticed a huge cherry tree just dripping with ripe fruit so it stopped by for a feed. People in the neighbourhood saw the bear and stopped to take photos, some of them shouted and honked their horns, some dogs barked, but the bear soon learned that the shouting, honking, and barking didn’t hurt, so it continued to eat cherries. Then it moved on to the tree next door.
A couple of weeks of this had it very comfortable with the presence of humans, and when the cherries dried up and ran out, it moved on to the garbage can that was left beside the back door of one of the houses. The next day was garbage day in the neighbourhood and suddenly there were garbage cans everywhere. The bear’s lack of fear of humans led it to wander down the middle of the road checking out each bin, even though people were still shouting at it.
The bear’s next move was to go up the steps and sniff at the screen door of one of those houses. Suddenly the humans saw this as a serious threat to their safety and the bear is now a ‘problem bear’.
But really, it is not the bear that’s the problem – the problem is the cherry tree, the garbage, and the humans that didn’t manage to keep these things from feeding the bear.
We have a very good public awareness program in Revelstoke concerning what to do to reduce the risk of conflict with bears, but many residents choose not to follow the basic advice, which is to secure all items that attract bears.
Cherry and other fruit trees are allowed to grow out of control, the fruit left to drop and rot on the ground; garbage is stored by the back door or on the front deck; fridges and freezers are kept on porches; people believe that their chickens are safe because they are in the middle of town or they have a wooden coop (even thought bears naturally rip apart logs to get at insects); birdfeeders are stuffed full of high calorie bird (or bear) food and left hanging in a tree as an open invitation to a bear.
The problem is not the bear! Secure all bear attractants now to encourage bears to go and forage in the wild and avoid being destroyed or becoming dangerous and causing someone harm.
For more information on managing wildlife attractants please visit www.wildsafebc.com. To report wildlife sightings or conflicts with wildlife please call the RAPP line at 1-877-952 7277.