June 12, 2013 - 7:06 AM
VERNON — Conservation officers have been inundated with bear complaints within city limits over the past few weeks, and they don't blame the bears.
Sgt. Josh Lockwood says the city has a garbage problem at the root of its bear problem. Of 97 black bear complaints, 89 were related to garbage, 12 to bird feeders and three to things like barbecues, pet food or compost.
He says leaving smelly garbage cans outside for prolonged periods of time are essentially invitations to hungry black bears.
"The community has to assist itself," Lockwood says. "People are phoning in saying 'I don't have garbage in my yard', and when (our staff) goes out, there will be 15 garbage cans on the street."
While you might have your garbage tucked away, a neighbour might not. As part of an education program, Lockwood says a new WildSafe B.C. coordinator has been hired by the City of Vernon.
Marnie Cuthill says she'll be going door to door putting bear attractant stickers on trash cans, asking residents to keep garbage inside until garbage day or using bear proof bins.
"We have the motto of keeping communities safe and wildlife wild," Cuthill says.
She says a major problem area is the Foothills where natural gullies act as wildlife corridors. If they catch a whiff of garbage, compost or bird seed, they'll pop up from the gully for a snack.
""There is about 8,000 calories in a bag of bird feed," she says. "The equivalent of that for a bear is 16 kg of berries to find. It's huge payback."
Once a bear has enjoyed the easy calories provided by garbage or bird seed, they'll be back, even if the attractant is removed.
Bear-proof bins can be a solution to keeping smelly garbage out of your home and away from bears. Cuthill says other cities across B.C. have started buying the bins and selling them to residents at a discounted price. The bins have to withstand an hour of bear contact.
"To give an example, last year they tested regular garbage cans (and) bears were in under ten seconds of contact time," Cuthill says. "They knock them over, jump on them, and they're in."
Right now, Cuthill says the City of Vernon encourages residents to put their garbage out early which is actually making the bear problem worse. She says putting garbage out the night before is fine, but leaving bins out for days on end in the hot sun is what really attracts the bears.
Tackling the bear problem is a big job and Cuthill is asking members of the public to consider volunteering their time with her. Those interested can call her at (250)306-2286 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at email@example.com or call (250)309-5230. Follow on Twitter @charhelston
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013