Learn to be bear aware

Bear Aware is now included under the WildSafeBC Program umbrella covering a wider range of species: cougar, coyote and urban deer

by Zoe Kirk

Bear Aware is now included under the WildSafeBC Program umbrella covering a wider range of species: cougar, coyote and urban deer. We have observed some startling correlations between human generated attractants (traditionally associated with bears) and conflicts with other species along wildlife corridors and interface areas.

Unsecured garbage is the prime reason every year that B.C. Conservation Officers have to destroy bears. But garbage is also a growing attractant to deer. Deer have been observed tearing into garbage bags to feed on vegetable matter thrown out by residents.

Any torn open or overturned garbage can lead to crows, dogs and rodents accessing readily available, un-natural food sources. When the dogs and rodents move in, it’s not a stretch to see coyotes come by to take advantage of the garbage and distracted pets or rodents. Unsecured garbage can attract bears, deer, coyotes, racoons, dogs, rats and mice.

Birdfeeders have long been known to provide a hungry bear with a quick, calorie rich snack. But, deer have figured out how to eat from feeders and they spill the seed, and the story begins again.

Seed on the ground attracts the ground birds and rodents, these attract our domestic cats, and this activity can attract roaming coyotes and cougars. Birdfeeders out of season can attract bears, deer, coyotes, racoons, cats, rats and mice.

Pet food on the porch is an ideal snack for more than just rover! Bears, coyotes, cougars, and rodents love pet food and will climb onto decks and porches to eat it. Pet food dishes on the porch or patio can attract bears, coyotes, cougars, racoons, rodents and the neighbour’s pets.

To date I have not heard of a deer browsing on pet food, but who knows how long it will be before they will decide to try it? Deer have been known to eat dead birds and mice.

Composts and composters that are not ‘working correctly’ are always a good place for a bear to look for snacks. Fruit and vegetables that are rotting instead of composting are delectable morsels for bears and all manner of rodents, from racoons to rats and mice.

And, when we have rodents, we have domestic cats. Cougars and coyotes following their hunting instincts follow suit to grab an easy meal. Poorly working compost attracts bears, coyotes, cougars, rodents, and neighbourhood cats.

Residential fruit trees attract all the predators and rodents. The theme is the same, the tree is the bait.

If poorly managed, all the refuse and by-products of human habitation attract local and domestic wildlife. If we humans take the few minutes to ‘think like a bear’ and manage our attractants accordingly, we would immediately see a difference on our roads and in our residential neighbourhoods. Feeding birds in winter is the best option. Pick fruit as soon as ripe and remove fallen fruit. Keep pet food dishes inside and pets in at night. Learn to compost correctly.

Garbage kept in a can not bags, and placed to the curb on the morning of pick up (this includes recycling) would be a huge step in the right direction. Imagine, these steps would lead to less conflict with wildlife, reduced rat populations, fewer neighbours hating each other’s pets, and cleaner streets and roadways.

One last note: at this time of year more wildlife is going to be alongside and crossing our roads and highways. Please be extra cautious on rural roads to avoid hitting, injuring or killing wildlife. Also, it saves on car insurance claims, and the risk of human injury or death.

For more information on Living with Wildlife visit the RDOS web site. www.rdos.bc.ca or at WildSafeBC, www.wildsafebc.com.