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Don’t put garbage out tonight, says bear awareness woman in Hope

Infamous ‘fat’ bear family in Hope has yet to hibernate and needs community’s protection, she says
A mother bear with her cub sets out to forage for food. A family of bears (not the ones pictured) has not started their winter hibernation in Hope yet, and it’s becoming more important than ever to keep them safe. (Ross Davies/Special to Black Press)

As Christmas Day fast approaches, Hope’s resident bear family appears to be “joining” the festive season by staying awake and active.

Lydia Koot, the community’s local bear lady, came into the Standard office today (Dec. 12) to remind Hope to keep their distance from the bears and not do anything that might put their safety — both bear and people — at risk.

“If the bears start going into garbage now — especially while they have been pretty good all year round — the cubs will go back into the garbage next spring when they wake up,” says Koot. “And we definitely don’t want to have that. Because then they’ll become a nuisance and risk being destroyed pretty quick.

“And she has been such a good mom, we really need to keep them safe.”

Koot posted some guidelines, in the Hope BC Bulletin Board Facebook group, for peacefully existing with the bears. This includes being mindful of when and how you throw away your food, washing your recycling, not leaving pet food or chicken feed outside, and cleaning your barbecue after each use. She also encourages only putting a little bit of bird feed outside, for those who feed birds, and taking the feeder inside for the night.

As garbage day is tomorrow (Dec. 13), Koot also recommends not putting garbage or green bins out the night before. She recommends not adding food scraps or strong smelling garbage to bins that aren’t securely locked up. She says that giving the bears access to garbage makes them less likely to hibernate — which in turn puts them at risk of becoming a nuisance to the community. In fact, according to Koot, the bears are “big and fat and do not need more food in order to survive hibernation.” And she would rather not see them at risk of being destroyed, especially as they’ve been good all year round.

She also encourages people, from a safe spot, to scare the bears from their property. This means not going close to the mother bear as she might defend her cubs, “who are also pretty big by now!” It also means keeping dogs on their leash at all times on the trails, keeping kids close, having bear spray on hand, and never walking alone on the trails.

While all of Hope should be cautious, areas that need to be extra mindful of Koot’s guidelines are Kawkawa Lake East, the campground at the Coquihalla River Community Park Trail, the Coquihalla River area in general, and Thacker Mountain. The bear family was also spotted at Greenview Drive.

Koot says she’s not sure why the bears are still awake but she doesn’t believe its because they’re hungry; there is still plenty of natural food for the bears to munch on including snowberries, hawthorn berries, mountain ash, rose hips, crab apples, and even salmon.

If anyone has more information about the bear family, and where they’ve been seen, Koot asks people to contact her on Facebook so she can keep track of them.