With the spring blooming of flowers comes the time for bears to wake up and look for food.
Bear sightings have increased as a result, as several bears go into people’s yards to root around in their garbage bins.
WildSafeBC Central Okanagan program coordinator Meg Bjordal is urging residents to be mindful and keep their garbage secure.
“Bears, in particular, have a very strong sense of smell and so garbage, especially when it’s been baking in our hot Okanagan sun, can be a major attractant for bears into our residential neighbourhoods,” she said.
“The major issue is if bears have access to the garbage, that’s a really easy food reward for them… and they’ll continue to come back looking for that easy, reliable source of food.”
Bjordal said it’s not just garbage either. Residents should also remember to keep their barbecue grills clean and not use birdfeeders as they also provide wildlife with an unnatural food source.
Once a bear learns food can be easily accessible from one place, it can become food-conditioned and habituated to human presence, which could pose a threat to both the bear and people in the area.
West Kelowna’s Rose Valley neighbourhood has one such bear. Bjordal said she estimates the bear to be about three to four years old and has been spotted in the area by many residents.
One resident said she and her housemate saw the bear go into their backyard and try to get into the garbage. They tried to scare it away, but it didn’t even notice them.
“There has been lots of available food sources for this bear throughout this very large neighbourhood.”
“This bear is using the wildlife corridor to pop up in different areas where it has access to these unnatural food sources… if we can’t get the residents to pull together and remove all of their attractants, then it’s not going to be a happy ending because the bear will become a public safety issue and conservation officers won’t have a choice but to destroy the bear,” she said.
Bears are not the only animals residents have to think about, Bjordal said. When garbage is left out and unsecured, it can also attract rats, raccoons, coyotes and deer. The best thing to do, she said, is to take down birdfeeders and use birdbaths instead.
Bjordal’s message comes as more bears come into neighbourhood areas, including in Southeast Kelowna’s McCulloch Road, in multiple locations in Lake Country, including between Okanagan Centre Road West and Carr’s Landing. Just on the afternoon of May 17, a bear was spotted along Cameron Avenue in Kelowna.
“For the safety of everyone involved, bears and humans alike, please don’t take out your garbage until collection day and keep it secure until then.”