Bear Aware: preventing people problems in bear habitat

British Columbia Conservation Foundation, Bear Awareness Program
Mission Statement
About Us
Local Programs
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Bear Aware
302 Sixth Street
Nelson, BC
V1L 2Y1
Tel: 250 352-1160
Fax: 250-352-0495
Be Bear Aware!

-Keep garbage inside!

-Compost responsibly.

-Pick friut or remove the trees.

-Store pet food indoors.

-Keep your barbecue clean.

-Bear-proof your yard.

Please don't attract bears
to your neighbourhood!

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Bear Aware

Bear Aware
British Columbia Conservation Foundation
Bear Aware
is a program of the
British Columbia
Conservation Foundation
Bear Aware is a program to prevent and reduce conflict between people and bears in our communities.

While most of us enjoy beautiful BC's wildlife, we don't want bears in our backyards! Both people and bears would be better off if there were fewer bears in our towns. Beacuse bears are just animals seeking what food they can find, the onus is on people to prevent bear conflicts. If we all took more responsibility for our garbage, tree fruit and kitchen compost "the bear problem" would largely dissappear, as it has in other jurisdictions.

In the last decade, thousands of black bears and hundreds of grizzlies have been killed and millions of tax dollars have been spent addressing Bears that have become conditioned to feed on food sources we provide. Still, killing bears in unprecedented numbers has not reduced the problem. The outcome that we all want is to keep bears out of our communities, preventing conflicts between people and bears. Past efforts at "bear management" have missed the point. Bears come into our neighbourhoods because they are searching for the foods that their noses tell them is there. Bears don't seek to confront people, but they persistantly seek out food. Food is readily available in our communities; a bear's nose is accurate and has pretty good range. We attract bears with smells of household gabage, un-harvested tree-fruit, pet-food, compost and barbecues. There are a limited number of strategies to deal with the odours. However, evidence indicates that if these curious bears are never rewarded with a taste of garbage or fruit, that they would quietly redirect their foraging, leaving town and avoiding people. Protecting urban food sources so that newly attrated bears don't learn old routines will protect people and bears in the future and save tax dollars too.

Ppeople have a wide range of tolerance for bears. Some people allow bears to get too close - inviting trouble, while others report every bear they see. Many bears are just passing through looking for food. If these bears dont find rewards their they soon move on and they may never return. Whatever your personal comfort level, when a bear does get too close we justifiably feel threatened. People's safety comes first. Do not run, or yell, just go indoors, calmly warn others and call a conservation officer. Not all bears represent the same level of threat. While grizzly bears are much more rare, they may be tempted by the same smells as black bears. Grizzly bears respond to threats much differnetly then black bears and can generally be considered more dangerous. This makes Grizzlies even less compatible with people and towns, and partially explains why the range of the North American grizzly bear has been shrinking over the last 150 years.

Bears respond to take advantage of whatever food that is available in their home range. They are attracted by sights, sounds, memories, and particularily smells. Bears can smell garbage from a mile away and if they are rewarded with an easy meal they learn very quickly to repeat behaviors. In effect we teach them to come into our towns. Wild bears have a fear of people, but if bears are allowed to find food near people, they become more bold. Soon enough, whether it is a black bear or a grizzly, someone will feel threatened. Once a bear learns to forage near people, it is usually too late to discourage the bear and ...

...that is how a fed bear becomes a dead bear.

A bear that is dead, has learned nothing; killing the bear does not solve the problem. Because, like the bears, we fail to recognize our errors and we fail to change our habits. Once dead, the bear problem seems to go away. No longer does 'that problem bear' tear the branches off the fruit trees, or spread garbage across the lawn. We go back to leaving our garbage outside. We neglect to harvest our fruit; it's business as usual. We even let the grease build up on our barbecue. Sooner or later all of this food draws another bear. It too will likely be killed. The habitat we provide is so rich and still we wonder: why don't the bears ever learn?

We can live more compatibly with bears. Bear Aware has been successful in many communities, educating and motivating people to adopt and establish new habits. Habits that show greater respect for our communities and the bears.

Please, Be Bear Aware help bear-proof your property and your community. Keeping bears out of the town helps keep everyone safer.

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