Bears will soon awake from the winter slumber and be looking for a ready food source.

Bears will soon awake from the winter slumber and be looking for a ready food source.

Bears shaking off their winter slumber

Okanagan residents reminded to keep garbage and recycling from becoming an attractant to wild animals

If the good weather continues, bears will soon waken from their slumber, and residents are reminded to ensure their garbage is locked up.

“Over the winter we can get a bit lackadaisical about our garbage and refuse habits,” said Zoe Kirk, RDOS Bear Aware WildSafeBC co-ordinator. “Year-round best practice around the home is to keep garbage locked up and secure until the morning of pickup. This includes recycling.”

Recycling, she said, can contain plastic food containers that harbour the scents of foods packaged inside. If they are not washed as well as dishes, the scent can be really attractive to bears.

“With a nose that is five times better than the best tracking dogs, they can smell a potential meal a long way off,” said Kirk, who also suggested taking down bird feeders by Easter and storing them until next Christmas season.

Residents that live in Okanagan Falls, Kaleden and West Bench have to abide by curbside bylaws that restrict placing garbage to the curb until after 5:30 a.m. on the day of pickup. Kirk said spring will see bears moving up and down the creek beds and backyards while they look for temporary shelter, water, food sources and their dens. A similar Bear Aware program and garbage bylaw was first introduced in Naramata, and conservation officers said the community has had black bear complaints drop dramatically from 117 in 2010 to 28 in 2011.

But last June, conservation officers saw a spike in bear sightings in West Bench, Okanagan Falls, Summerland, Naramata and Upper Bench. It resulted in conservation officers having to kill 10 bears, most of which were bears whose behaviour changed because they became accustomed to attractants left out by humans. Others were killed because they were very small and in poor condition searching for food.

For more information on what you can do to reduce the chance of human-bear conflict contact Kirk at 250-492-0237 or by email at zkirk@rdos.bc.ca.