Co-ordinator sees education as key in reducing conflict with bears

A region-wide Bear Aware co-ordinator hopes education will help reduce the chances of human and bear conflict.

A region-wide Bear Aware co-ordinator hopes education will help reduce the chances of human and bear conflict.

Zoe Kirk’s role as the Bear Aware ambassador is to educate by going door-to-door in hotspots, visit schools, citizen societies that ask her to speak and groups such as runners or cyclists in the region who are in the interface zones.

“Why are bears in our community? Because we lure them in, and not by maliciousness or wanting to have bears in our community,” said Kirk. “They have a nose that is five times better than a dog’s. Bears are always hungry and when we put our garbage out it has that scent of high-calorie, high-fat and then there is the fruit and outdoor freezers. That is what brings them into our community. There is also a couple of areas in this region where traditional paths of creeks go right through and bears rely on fish to get through the fall.”

As the Naramata Water Ambassador last year, Kirk said she came across a few bears while in the community. In one instance she saw a bear sitting on a table that it had pulled right up to an outdoor freezer and was enjoying munching on a roast.

Last year, the Ministry of Environment’s conservation officer service received 23,240 reports of bear sightings. During that time, conservation officers attended 2,827 incidents in which bears were acting aggressively or public safety was an issue.  As a result, 120 bears were relocated, while 675 bears had to be destroyed.

To help keep bears away, Kirk suggests keeping garbage secured in the house, garage or shed until pick-up day and then return containers to the secure site once they are emptied.

Picking up ripe and fallen fruit daily, using bird feeders only in the winter, cleaning barbecue grills after use, bringing pet food dishes inside and not adding meat to composts also are suggested.

If a bear is spotted in your community, remain calm, keep away from the bear and bring children and pets indoors if possible. Never approach a bear and do not run from it as bears can move quickly. Once a bear has left the area, residents should check their yards to ensure there are no attractants available.

“We need to learn how to co-exist. If we can learn how to manage ourselves, which means our garbage and how we place things such as barbecues and pet foods around our homes so all of those attractants are managed for the bears, we also eliminate the dogs getting into the garbage, raccoons getting into the garbage,” said Kirk.

For more information about what your family can do to reduce the chance of human-bear conflict Kirk can be reached at the RDOS at 250-492-0237.  To report a human-wildlife conflict that has threatened public safety or resulted in significant property damage call the conservation officer service Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line at 1-877-952-7277.

“With the RAPP line people often feel that if they call, a conservation officer will be coming out there and killing the bear, that is not the case at all. The RAPP line is definitely to report dangerous or perceived dangerous bears, but they also ask that you call when you sight a bear in your yard because that builds statistical data,” said Kirk.