By Laura Keil, Publisher/Editor

Bears have been spotted near residences in recent weeks, lured down the mountain by the promise of easy scavenging.

B.C.’s Conservation Office must feel like a broken record in spring and fall as they repeat the same guidelines people should follow when it comes to discouraging snooping bears.

While it’s not realistic for people to get rid of their gardens or to never put garbage in their bin outside, there is some low-hanging fruit that we can all do to be bear aware.

First off comes smelly garbage (the number one attractant according to WildSafeBC). If you’re putting organics in your garbage outside, be aware this could attract a bear. During this time of year, try to keep garbage inside the house until you’re able to get rid of it at the curb or the dump.

Second is literally the low-hanging fruit. Removing all fruit from fruit trees is a big help in avoiding a hungry bear.
Bird feeders, composts, livestock, BBQs and freezers are also noteworthy attractants to black bears.

Not many people know that you can be fined for leaving out bear attractants. Under the B.C. Wildlife Act, a person who leaves attractants accessible to dangerous wildlife can be fined $230 by the B.C. Conservation Officer Service and setting outgarbage cans the night before collection in areas frequented by bears is an offence.

Composting can be done in a way that reduces the chance a bear will take a liking. Earlier this year, we spoke to local gardening guru Pete Amyoony who said he always covers up the organics with a good layer of “browns” (leaves, straw, grass clippings etc) and this has drastically reduced the number of bears in his yard. A good thing, too, since one time he went out to chuck his compost and a bear was sitting right inside his pallet compost bin!

The point of reducing attractants isn’t just for people’s safety, it’s also for the bear’s. As WildSafe BC says, “bears that start using human-provided foods can become food-conditioned. Once a bear starts equating humans with foods, they can lose their natural wariness of humans and become what is called human-habituated. A habituated bear tolerates humans in much closer proximity than what is safe for both bears and humans. This increases the potential for a dangerous interaction between the bears and us.” Or more succinctly: a fed bear is a dead bear.

So for the sake of both humans and bears, do a sweep of the “low-hanging fruit” this season.