BY BILL PHILLIPS
With the fresh snow on the ground this morning, we might be lulled into complacency that bears have denned up and won’t be an issue until the spring.
That’s isn’t necessarily the case, says Sgt. Steve Ackles of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, particularly around Prince George.
“We have poor attractant management,” he said, adding it’s the availability of food that determines when bears go into hibernation, not the weather.
As long as bears have easy access to food, they will continue to stay up late and snack. Once natural food sources, such as berries, dry up if there is easy access to human food, they will find it.
A few weeks ago Conservation Officers had to kill a mother bear in the College Heights area and her four cubs have been transferred to a refuge near Smithers. However, says Ackles, it won’t be an easy life for the cubs as they will grow up without the benefit of learning from their mother.
He says there are two other sows with four cubs in the area, which indicates that there has been plenty of food available for the bears as, quite often, not all in a litter of four cubs survive. The reason bears come to urban areas, and them become problem bears, is there is often lots of food available from human sources such a garbage cans and birdfeeders.
Ackles said Prince George COs are coming off their busiest year ever with 1,250 calls for bears since April 1. There were 150 calls in September.
So, you can help bears start their hibernation simply by making sure there isn’t anything in your neighbourhood for them to eat.
“This means residents should take precautions,” said Conservation Officer Nicole Caithness, in a conference call with provincial media. “That means storing all garbage or organics in an area or bin inaccessible to wildlife, taking down all birdfeeders, and never feeding wild animals.”
She said, provincially, conservation officers are seeing more reports of bear/human conflicts, primarily in the Prince George, Squamish, and Maple Ridge areas.
“Bears depend heavily on the fall salmon runs as one of their last opportunities to pack on winter calories,” she said. “We’d like to remind hunters and recreationalists to be alert while driving or recreating near salmon streams.”