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Bears are back in the South Okanagan and looking for food

Regional district warns residents to take precautions, avoid attracting bears
This juvenile bear wandered through a West Bench backyard in 2023. Young bears and their mothers are currently emerging from hibernation and looking for food. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)

The bears are back in town, and they’re hungry to restock after hibernating across the South Okanagan and Similkameen.

The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen is warning residents to take care and avoid attracting the wild animals into residential areas.

Black bears have emerged from a relatively mild winter after recent warm weather helped begin their search for food to replace the reserves lost during their hibernation.

Mother bears are also out with their new cubs, and pose an additional risk to residents in the community.

In recent weeks residents have spotted the bears out and about, including an incident in Summerland where the bear picked up and carried away a garbage can from outside a home.

READ MORE: Bear seen picking up, carrying garbage bin outside Summerland home

Convenient, unnatural food sources draw wildlife into communities, creating safety concerns for wildlife and residents. Bears can smell five times better than dogs. Rats and raccoons are also well-adapted to smell out possible food sources.

The RDOS released tips that will help people avoid attracting bears and other wildlife in their neighbourhood:

• Store all garbage in a secure area, preferably a lockable garage or shed

• Wash all food and recyclable containers thoroughly before placing in bins or setting aside for depot drop-off

• Freeze potentially smelly leftovers or scraps, especially meat and fish, and waiting until just before pick-up to place them in the garbage container outside

• Remove bird feeders, as birdseed is a very high-calorie snack for a hungry bear

• Wait until the morning of pick-up to put the garbage on the curb for collection

B.C. has the largest population of black bears in North America, and interactions within the RDOS reached new highs in 2023.

People can report wildlife conflicts or sightings in urban areas to the Conservation Officer Service anytime at 1-877-952-7277.

For further information, people can contact Shelley Fiorito, RDOS WildSafeBC Community Coordinator, or visit

Brennan Phillips

About the Author: Brennan Phillips

Brennan was raised in the Okanagan and is thankful every day that he gets to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
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