Bears are starting to come out of hibernation and with the COVID-19 pandemic, advocates are having a hard time getting the message out about keeping bears safe and away from communities.
As bears begin to awaken and look for food, Lydia Koot is urging people to minimize the amount of bear attractants outside their homes. This means keeping your yard clear of fruit, keeping pet food locked up and taking down bird feeders. Ensuring garbage bins that are not bear-resistant are kept locked up is also important.
Cleaning out any recycling kept outdoors is also crucial, as bears are drawn to the sweet smell of pop and beer cans. Really anything with a smell to it will attract a bear – including chainsaw grease and paint stain, which can be fatal if ingested by a bear.
Koot runs education and prevention work with the Hope Mountain Black Bear Committee, who normally go out canvassing and doing garbage checks this time of year to inform people how to avoid human-bear interactions. With the spread of COVID-19, this canvassing is impossible.
So Koot is spreading the word in any other way she can – on social media and through local news.
An added hurdle in Hope are the new waste bins, which Koot said the vast majority of residents have stored outside. “They just don’t have space to put them away, and in trailer parks and small homes they don’t even have a garage or a shed, so they are all in front of the house…all week” she said. She had heard of at least five instances of bears opening these bins.
These are not bear resistant, Koot said. “What the bears do is they dump them to the side, they slap on the bin and the lid just jumps open, or they just rip the lid open,” she explained. So extra care must be taken by residents to not leave anything which might attract bears in their bins if they are stored outdoors.
“Keep your kitchen scraps in the house or garage or wherever, locked up, until the morning of garbage pick up,” Koot said. One resident suggested using ice cream tubs to keep the scraps frozen in their freezer.
“We will get dangerous situations very soon, and I mean dangerous situations for the people but also for the bears and people need to sort out their waste properly,” she said.
This means removing anything that remotely smells of food, including napkins and Kleenex. Diapers and used personal hygiene products like tampons and pads can also attract bears to your bin and shouldn’t be put out until the morning of garbage pick up.
“Now, we have a double whammy, not being out there able to be out there – doing the education – and having all the bins available for the bears” she said.
“It’s a tough time, and I understand people’s frustration,” Koot said, adding it’s very unfortunate timing with bears emerging from hibernation and the committee not being able to act because of COVID-19.
If people spot a bear, Koot asks them to call her at 604-206-0415 or call the provincial hotline for wildlife-human interactions at 1-877-952-7277.