A trash problem led to a bear being shot in Lake Country Thursday, Oct. 8.
The Conservation Officer Service (COS) has received numerous calls regarding bears accessing garbage, primarily in mobile home parks. One park, in particular, was having issues with a bear getting into a large centralized trash bin, which was not bear-restricted certified.
“This bear was known to us, we were trying to manage him,” Conservation officer Ken Owens said.
But since the bear had become addicted to the garbage and habituated to the area, the COS was forced to put it down in broad daylight at 2 p.m. Thursday.
“It’s just like crack cocaine,” Owens said of garbage to bears.
While the bear was causing issues, the real source is people not having their garbage secure, Owens insists.
“It’s not a bear problem, it’s a people problem.”
The owner of the mobile home park was issued an order to instate a bear-restricted certified trash container, and there is a $575 daily fine if they don’t comply.
“They are ordered to come into compliance so that bears don’t come into contact with garbage.”
But this is not an isolated incident.
“Each and every one of those mobile home parks is having the same problems,” Owens said.
Bears and people coexist in the Lake Country area, but the animals are currently more prevalent as they stock up for winter.
“This time of year they are trying to put on 20-30,000 calories per day.”
On top of an excessive amount of food needed, bears have a sense of smell that is 2,100 times that of a human to sniff out their meals.
The wafting scent of ripe fruit or garbage is easy for a bear to pick up on. But the latter, packed with glass, debris and sugars, is not a healthy option.
“Bears don’t have dentists, it’s just not good for them,” Owens said.
Once a bear gets a taste for garbage, it will always seek out more. Which is why COS is often forced to kill these bears.
“Relocation does not work, when these bears get into garbage they will travel thousands of miles to get to it.”
Which is why Owens urges people to ensure their trash is inaccessible to our furry foragers.
“Regrettably it’s just kind of a pattern that keeps on happening.”
The COS receives 20-30,000 bear calls in B.C. every year. Having been a CO for 30 years, Owens said a lot of those are easily avoidable.
“It all comes down to how we handle our waste and attractants.”
While the regional districts supply trash containers to residents, very few are actually bear-restricted certified. The containers also keep out dogs, raccoons and rats, which are more prevalent in the Okanagan.
A pilot project is underway in Kelowna, West Kelowna and Lake Country with some of these certified containers.
“We’re considerably behind the times in the Okanagan,” Owens said.
With 160,000 black bears and 17-20,000 grizzly bears in B.C., Owens urges residents to protect their livestock with bear electric fences.
He said he’s noticed there are a lot more backyard bees and backyard chickens in the area, but the fences are an effective and inexpensive way to protect them.
“It keeps you safe and keeps your livestock safe.”