Upon waking from a long, restful sleep, it’s important to kick-start the metabolism with some breakfast: but imagine the hunger after having been asleep for months, and how enticing just about any morsel of food would be.
“It’s spring time and our black bears have woken up and have just started to become active (in their hunt for food),” said Lydia Koot, founder of the Hope Mountain Black Bear Committee (HMBBC).
Combine that with the recent waste disposal issues within the District of Hope, and Koot says without the extra vigilance of community members, hungry bears may be drawn into town limits by the sweet scent of rotting refuse.
“This isn’t a criticism of the District,” Koot continued, “it’s just about the transition of new garbage pick-up” and how to manage our waste during this time of contractor flux because of its ability to attract bears.
It can be “especially (bad) when they’ve just come out of hibernation (and) the only thing there is for them to eat is grass because there are very little food options,” said Sergeant Don Strahl, the conservation officer in charge of the Fraser Valley area all the way from White Rock to Boston Bar.
“This is why we all need to be vigilant with our garbage,” Koot said. Bears who get used to eating garbage and return for it can be dangerous. “And they get shot for it, and bears shouldn’t be shot.”
Luckily, says Koot, who established the Hope Mountain Black Bear Committee in 2011, a bear hasn’t been shot in Hope for the past six years.
“Hope has gotten so much better because the residents and District are working together,” continued Koot.
And to keep it that way, Koot is asking the community to be “really aware and mindful” of not only their properties, but areas around town.
“If you see a full garbage, call the District to have it cleaned up. We’ve called about this one and they’re on they way, but we know they’re busy,” she said while standing next to a bear-proof garbage can that was propped open with overflowing garbage.
“A fed bear is a dead bear,” said Strahl, “so we need to (rely on) the abundance of nature to (keep) bears away from town (because) the main thing they want to do during the summer is get fat for winter. That’s why there’s a huge emphasis on keeping (areas free from) attractants.”
The best ways to help do this says Koot is to wait until the morning of pick-up to put out your garbage, rather than putting it out the night before, and bringing it in if it’s not been picked up. It’s also wise to never store garbage bins against a house, and to pick fruit in the summer and fall when it ripens.
In Abbotsford, “bird feeders in the backyard is the number one attractant,” Strahl added. “It’s a huge amount of energy and it’s basically like hanging a jar of peanut butter (outside).
“Feed birds in the winter, not the summer, as that’s when they need it anyways,” and the bears will be sleeping.
But even with our best efforts, bears will sometimes wander into populated areas. If you spot a bear in the wild, says Koot, stay back, however, if you spot one in town, let the HMBBC know so they can take the next steps.
“Lydia’s done awesome (in the area for bear conservation),” Strahl said. “She’s been a real life-saver for us in the area. But if people do have a persistent black bear that keeps hanging around, they can call (us) and let us know.”
“We always call Lydia,” said Mayor Peter Robb. “Unless it’s a dangerous situation, then we call the RCMP first.
“But (the organization’s been) a big help, and they’ve done well (educating the public).”
The B.C. Conservation Services can be reached 24-hours a day at 877-952-7277.