As summer comes to an end and we head into fall, bears will begin preparing for winter denning. During the winter, bears do not consume any food and they do not defecate in their winter dens. This adaptation allows them to survive harsh winters when food is less abundant. A bear’s diet, unlike other predators, is about 80% vegetation. Bears will need to consume over 20,000 calories per day and they may be actively foraging up to 20 hours per day.
The fall also tends to be a time of year when there are increased calls to the Conservation Officer Service regarding bears in conflict. Bears that have learned to access food rewards near people may return repeatedly if they lose their natural wariness of people. The best way to avoid conflict with bears is to avoid drawing them into the community with unsecured foods. If they don’t get a food reward, they will move on or focus on known natural food sources.
As a community, everyone can play a part in reducing human-bear conflicts and increase community safety. It begins at home, looking at what you can do to make your property safer by securing bear attractants: secure garbage in a shed and do not let it stockpile. Bring it to the transfer station as soon as possible. Smelly items can be wrapped in newspaper and frozen in an indoor freezer until it can be disposed of.
Bird feeders should be avoided in bear country as 1kg of bird seed has over 8,000 calories. Pets should be fed indoors or only put out small amounts that will be consumed immediately. Do not leave dirty food bowls outside as the smell will attract bears. Manage your compost so it doesn’t smell
Livestock (especially young ones), chickens and beehives should have a well-installed permanent electric fence that is maintained. Barbeques should be cleaned frequently and the excess grease removed. Fish waste should be disposed of in deep water and not left on the beach. Pick fruit early and let it ripen indoors. Pick up any windfall. If this is not possible, get an electric fence to protect the tree and your harvest
WildSafeBC has a number of resources and information on their website to provide best practices and tips. The WildSafeBC electric fencing program has been very successful in reducing conflicts with bears. Those who have had fences installed have noticed a significant decrease in bear conflicts. If you would like to learn how to install an effective electric fence, please refer to https://wildsafebc.com/electric-fencing/ and the Beginner’s Guide to Electric Fencing found on the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee website http://igbconline.org/for-farming-ranching. Limited electric fences remain. Contact [email protected]
Another resource for managing fruit in Bella Coola is the Community Harvest Program which runs a fruit gleaning program. They are looking for fruit to pick and always welcome people interested in volunteering. Please contact Nola Mack at 250-799-5783 for more information.
Finally, if you see a bear in the community, call the Conservation Officer Service, 1-877-952-7277 to report it. You can also do it online https://forms.gov.bc.ca/environment/rapp/. Information regarding bear activity and conflicts needs to be reported early so that the COS can be as proactive as possible.