A black bear scrounges up a snack from a Bella Vista area yard Wednesday

A black bear scrounges up a snack from a Bella Vista area yard Wednesday

Residents urged to be bear aware

Garbage-addicted bears are the largest problem in the region therefore efforts are underway to keep wildlife wild and communities safe

Someone, or something, could be digging into your trash.

Garbage-addicted bears are the largest problem in the region therefore efforts are underway to keep wildlife wild and communities safe.

“Garbage is the number one attractant,” said Tessa Coulthard, Vernon Wild Safe B.C. ambassador.

The 20-year-old has returned home for the summer where she will going door-to-door alerting and educating residents, and will also be tagging garbage which could be an attractant.

“The conservation service gets over 20,000 calls in B.C. for black bears and over half of them are for garbage,” said Coulthard, who held the same position last summer.

In the last two weeks of May there were already 11 reports of food conditioned bears going after garbage, bird feeders and pet food, as well as numerous sightings and one bear was destroyed after damaging a freezer in the BX.

Coulthard’s job is to help prevent these wildlife/human interactions (which also include deer, coyote and cougars) by educating the public.

Along with knocking on the doors of areas of interest, she will be at local events such as the Vernon Farmers Market, giving classroom presentations, and will be placing tags on garbage bins that are not secure or put out too early.

“I tagged over 300 garbage bins over the 15 times I went garbage tagging last summer,” said Coulthard, who only works in the City of Vernon, but hopes the initiative will grow to the Regional District of North Okanagan in the future.

In Vernon, the areas so far this year which have seen bear activity are Adventure Bay, Bella Vista and the Vernon Golf and Country Club. Therefore those areas are on Coulthard’s target list.

“Unfortunately, they’re the same neighbourhoods as last year,” she said, hoping a repeated message will stick with residents.

Waiting to put out garbage until the morning of pickup, taking down bird feeders and picking ripe fruit are just a few of the ways residents can do their part.

“One kilogram of birdseed has 8,000 calories, which makes it a very attractive food source for bears trying to bulk up for the winter,” said Coulthard.

Those walking or hiking in bear country are also reminded of some key safety tips:

– hike in pairs or more

– carry bear spray

– talk to yourself

– keep dogs on a leash

And if you do run into a bear Coulthard says don’t scream and don’t run.

“Slowly back away, raise your arms if you want to and tell him ‘whoa bear’ and leave an escape route.’”

Chances of being attacked are very rare, but go down significantly if you are with someone.

“They don’t like groups of people. They don’t like people in general,” said Coulthard, who is in her third year at the University of Victoria studying geography.

Bear activity will slow in July and August but picks up in September. Wild Safe B.C. keeps a pulse on all wildlife conflicts and sightings at wildsafebc.com/warp.

To report wildlife in conflict call the RAPP line (1-877-952-7277).