It’s bear season in Princeton – and everywhere else.
In the past week there has been one official bear sighting in town, on Billiter Avenue, as well as a cougar sighting on Huffs Road eight days ago, according to the Wildlife Alert Reporting Program operated by WildSafeBC.
But there are lots more bears out there, says Zoe Kirk, RDOS WildSafeBC community coordinator. Spotlight readers have reported seeing bears on the Princeton Summerland Road and Highway 5A near the airport. Kirk confirmed there is a bear currently living in downtown Penticton.
“British Columbia is home to 25 percent of the black bear population in Canada,” said Kirk, in an interview with the Spotlight Monday. “There are only two places in BC that don’t have black bears and that’s downtown Vancouver and downtown Victoria.”
Conversation officers do not count bears or tag them, but Kirk said there are other ways to quantify the bear population including forensic evidence and environmental markers.
“It stands to reason that a place like Princeton, in a low lying area on the rivers with that big nice mountain behind you and the flat area in front of you that that is going to be an area that attracts bears…We’ve plunked ourselves as human beings in exactly the same habitat as the bears.”
Kirk said the large urban dear population in Princeton, and the fact that the area has enjoyed a long hot summer, with good berry crops and strong river flows to accommodate fish, contribute to bear habitation.
Kirk, who recently gave a bear safety talk at Princeton’s New Beginnings, said education is the key to reducing the risk of human-bear encounters.
“When you get a bear coming into town and getting into someone’s garbage and realizing how easy it is to go down the smorgasboard of garbage cans, you get them habitating.”
During this season a black bear requires 24,000 calories a day and it has “a sense of smell that is five times better than a bloodhound. A bear can smell a peanut butter sandwich from a kilometer and a half away.”
WildSafe BC urges the following steps to promote bear safety around your home.
•Store garbage in a secure building until collection day or consider purchasing a bear-resistant household container.
•Ensure bins are tightly closed.
•Regularly wash all recycling items and clean the bins that contain garbage or recycling.
•Do not leave garbage in the back of a truck, even if it has a canopy.
•If you cannot store garbage securely, freeze smelly items and add to the bin only on the morning of collection.
•Pick fruit and allow it to ripen indoors or pick daily as it ripens. Do not allow windfall to accumulate on the ground.
•If you do not want the fruit, prune the tree vigorously to prevent blossoms or spray spring blossoms with a garden hose to knock them off.
•If you would like to make the fruit available to others, contact a local fruit exchange program or food bank.
•Consider using electric fencing to protect your fruit trees.
If you no longer want to manage your tree, consider replacement with a native, non-fruit bearing variety.
•Berries should be picked as they ripen.
•Consider replacing your bushes with native, non-fruiting varieties if you do not want the fruit.
•Consider using electric fencing to protect your berry bushes.
•Birdseed is a good source of calories for bears and other wildlife. A kilogram of sunflower seeds has approximately 8,000 calories – about 20 times the caloric reward a bear would get from grazing the same weight of wild clover.
•Use bird feeders only in the winter when bears are hibernating and natural bird food is limited.
• If you feed birds in bear season, consider the following steps to minimize your contribution to human-bear conflicts:
Take bird feeders in at night
Keep the ground underneath the feeders clean and free of bird seed
Fill your feeders regularly with just a small amount of feed – this will decrease the reward a bear would receive if it does get to your feeder
• The key to a healthy compost is ensuring equal amounts of brown and green materials.
• Layer your greens, such as kitchen scraps and fresh grass clippings with no more than 10 cm of browns, such as dried leaves, grasses, shredded newspaper and cardboard.
• Do not add fish, meat, fat, oils, un-rinsed eggshells or any cooked food.
• Add oxygen by turning regularly.
• Avoid overloading the compost in fruit season – freeze material and add gradually.
• Avoid adding cereals or grains.
Pets and pet food
• Feed pets indoors.
• If pets are fed outside, ensure all food is cleaned up.
• Store pet food in a secure location or in a bear-resistant bin.
• Clean barbeques after use by burning off the grill entirely.
• Remove and clean the grease trap after every use.
• Cover and/or store indoors (do not take propane tank indoors).
Even more ways to prevent bears from gaining access to human food
• Protect beehives with electric fencing.
• Store freezers indoors if possible. If left outside, clean outside of freezer after every use to remove food residue.
• Food smokers and the preparation and curing of wild meat can be an attractant – consider using electric fencing.
• Store petroleum products in a secure enclosure.
• Never leave a cooler outside unless it has been thoroughly cleaned.
Vegetable gardens may become an attractant if a bear has already gained other food rewards on your property. Consider electric fencing.