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Winery, Northern Bear Awareness team up to keep apples away from bears

Dave Bakker, Northern Bear Awareness Society, Noemie Touchette, Director of Operations at Northern Lights Estate Winery, and Doug Bell, Doug Bell, operating partner for Northern Lights Estate Winery. Bill Phillips photo

Are the apples getting ripe on your trees? Are you wondering what you’re going to do with all those apples and whether they’re going to attract some hungry bears into your backyard?

The easiest solution is to donate your apples to the Northern Lights Estate Winery which will, of course, make wine out of them.

The winery, in its fifth year of a partnership with the Northern Bear Awareness Society of Prince George, is hoping to collect more than 25,000 pounds of apples from around Prince George this year.

“It’s so disappointing to see people continue to not pick their apples and let them rot on the trees,” said Doug Bell, operating partner for Northern Lights Estate Winery. “When they do that, of course, you’re finding so many bears coming into populated areas and, in many cases, getting destroyed.”

The idea of donating apples to the winery came about early in 2015 while in discussion with the Northern Bear Aware Society on how to reduce the attractant levels that occur in areas of the city where bear activity is high year after year.

Bell said staff at the winery believes that sustainability and environmental stewardship means more than just what they do on their own site. It also means contributing back to the broader area which includes wildlife habitat and the community.

“Another problem we encountered was finding apple orchards in the northern area to source our product from since our own apple orchard will not produce enough apples for several years,” he said.

Apples donated by residents and can be dropped off at Northern Lights Estate Winery. There is also a small crew of individuals that can pick apples from homeowners whom are unable to pick their own fruit.

“When bears are attracted to residential areas, not only are the residents at risk but so are the bears, many bears are killed every year because they pose a risk to the health and safety of people in the area,” said Noemie Touchette, Director of Operations at Northern Lights Estate Winery.

The wine produced from these northern hardy apples is a beautiful blend of sweet and sour. It produces an off dry wine similar to a Pinot Gris Grape wine. The blend of apples has the right aromatics and complexity to pair well with many different foods and is sold across BC at select retailers.

This year in an addition to the program, individuals can make their own fruit wines from fruits harvested by bringing them into Hobby Brews by Northern Lights.

“You can now get the same professional wines found at Northern Lights Winery using your own fruits by bringing them in to Hobby Brews. This is a great way to use up excess fruit and restock your wine cellar at the same time,’ said Diana Bell, operating partner of Hobby Brews by Northern Lights.

Bell stressed the winery isn’t the only place to your apples to the Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter, and the Prince George Fruit Exchange, who link people who have fruit available to people who want fruit.

“We really excited about this program,” Bell said. “We want to see it expand right across the province.”

The program is very welcome Northern Bear Awareness Society.

“(The winery) has led the charge in ways how communities address their excess fruit,” said Dave Bakker of the Northern Bear Awareness Society. “(The program) lets other communities know that there are responsible options for disposing fruit or putting it to a good use … At this time of year apples are a major attractant … They are a high source of sugars and fattening materials that bears require before hibernation.”

Collecting the apples keeps the bears out of neighbourhoods.

Bakker said it’s been a quiet year in terms of bear incidents around the city. He said only 14 bears have been destroyed. The average is in the high 20s.

“That doesn’t mean we can get complacent about what we’re doing,” he said. “We still have to address our attractants. It’s still important to be mindful. And don’t wait for it to happen because then it’s too late.”

For more on the Winery or Northern Bear Aware Society, please visit www.northernlightswinery.ca or www.northernbearawareness.com

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