It should come as no surprise that British Columbia’s symbolic mammal is the Spirit Bear. After all, BC boasts one of the largest bear populations in the world! And with a little care, humans and bears can coexist with minimum conflict.
Here are six residential pest control tips on how to avoid conflict with bears at home:
- “A fed bear is a dead bear.” Feeding bears anytime and anywhere causes them to associate food with humans. This leads them to lose their instinctual aversion to people. You can guess the rest. Bears that have been fed will start frequenting areas where people live and become more aggressive in the search for their food—leading to conflict. Never feed a bear or leave any food out that a bear can find.
- Garbage. Bears can smell food over a kilometer away. Store garbage in a secure location in tightly closed bins. Only put it out on collection day. Keep garbage, recycling and compost bins clean to avoid lingering odours.
- Fruit trees and berry bushes. Pick fruit early and let it ripen indoors. Don’t let windfall fruit accumulate. Some B.C. residents may even consider erecting an electric fence along long and remote property lines.
- Bird feeders. Bears love bird seed! It’s best to put bird feeders out only in late fall and winter when bears hibernate. In summer, keep areas under bird feeders clean and bring them in at night.
- Barbecues, smokers, coolers. Make sure you keep them clean and in a secure location when not in use. Just like garbage cans, bears can be attracted by the smell of cooking food.
- Compost. Avoid adding smelly or animal-based waste to compost. Mix household compost with grass and leaves and mix often to optimize decomposition and minimize odour.
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Here are four tips on avoiding bear conflict in the wild:
- Camping and hiking. “The best bear encounter is the one you avoid.” Talking or singing work well to keep bears away. Know how to recognize bear scat, tracks, paths, signs of foraging and areas where bears are likely to frequent like salmon streams and berry patches… and keep away!
- Carry bear spray and know how to use it! Studies have shown that bear pepper spray can reduce the chance of injury from undesirable bear activity.
- Keep your campsite clean. Cook and keep food away from your tent. Hang food at least 3m off the ground and 1.5m away from the nearest tree. Be sure to wash your dishes and clean your cooking utensils at a safe distance from the camp to prevent bears from associating your camp ground with a free meal.
- Know what to do in the event of an encounter! Black bears can outrun a horse and are great tree climbers, so be prepared. Talk to park rangers before camping in unfamiliar territory to ensure that you are not caught off guard or unprepared.