Bear complaints are increasing in the North Okanagan as they look for food sources.

Bear complaints are increasing in the North Okanagan as they look for food sources.

Garbage-addicted bears a problem in the North Okanagan

Residents urged to secure their trash and other potential food sources

Wandering into North Okanagan neighbourhoods can mean a death sentence for bears.

With high-elevation food sources dried up, bears are now into the valley bottom and turning to anything they can eat — fruit, corn and garbage.

“The complaints are definitely picking up,” said Tanner Beck, conservation officer.

“People leave garbage out and the bears become habituated.”

Residents are urged to use bear-proof trash containers or keep garbage secured in the house or shed until pickup day.

Pick ripe and fallen fruit daily and remove any unused fruit trees.

Clean the barbecue grill after each use and bring pet food dishes inside.

Bird feeders should be taken down.

“Bird feeders are not necessary in the summer and fall. There is lots of natural food for birds,” said Beck.

If residents spot a bear, they are advised to remain calm, keep away from the bear and bring children and pets indoors, if possible.

People should never approach a bear and should not run from it, as bears can move very quickly.

If a potential conflict occurs, residents can call the Report All Poachers and Polluters hotline at 1-877-952-7277.

However, there is the possibility the bear will have to be destroyed by authorities.

“Once they switch over to human food, relocation is not an option,” said Beck.

“They will travel great distance to get back to their home range and to find the food they were accessing before.”

Beck isn’t sure how many bears have been destroyed in the North Okanagan so far this spring and summer.

To learn how to reduce bear conflicts, go to www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/plants-animals-ecosystems/wildlife/human-wildlife-conflict/staying-safe-around-wildlife/bears/bear-smart