The bears are back in town, and so is WildSafeBC.
Black bears are coming out of hibernation with big appetites, and WildSafeBC coordinators across the province are offering tips to residents for avoiding bear encounters.
WildSafeBC is a program delivered by the BC Conservation Foundation in communities across B.C. and helps to prevent conflict with wildlife through collaboration, education and community solutions.
Duncan Booth is Port Alberni’s new community coordinator this year. From April to November, Booth will be involved in a number of WildSafe initiatives, including door-to-door delivery campaigns, webinar delivery of the WildSafe Ranger Program for school-aged children and Wildlife Awareness and Safety Education sessions. Booth is also planning to set up at some farmers’ markets this summer to introduce himself to the community at large. All initiatives will follow COVID-19 safety protocols.
“We’re trying to use education to reduce human-wildlife conflicts in the area,” he explained. “We’re going to be doing lots of community outreach, as public health orders dictate.”
WildSafeBC focuses on prevention as the best way to avoid or manage human-wildlife conflicts. In Port Alberni, the No. 1 attractant for black bears is garbage bins.
Black bears are omnivores, with vegetation making up about 80 percent of their diet. But as opportunistic feeders, bears can also develop a taste for human food and garbage. WildSafeBC warns that bears can become assertive or destructive when they have learned to associate humans and their activities with food. This can sometimes result in bears being destroyed by conservation officers.
Although Port Alberni garbage bins come with “bear-proof” steel clips, Booth says the best way to keep bears out of the garbage is to keep bins secured inside of a structure. Port Alberni’s bylaws state that garbage bins cannot be placed on the curb prior to the morning of collection day, and need to be fully secured using both lid clips until they are placed at the curb for collection.
“Clips are the last line of defence,” said Booth. “But they do work.”
As a part of the educational portion of the WildSafeBC program, Booth will be visiting various neighbourhoods across Port Alberni this summer to do weekly garbage tagging. Garbage bins that are placed on the curb the night before pickup will be targeted. These targeted bins will receive a bright yellow sticker that serves as a warning to residents that their garbage is an attractant.
The yellow tags are not tickets. If the City of Port Alberni issues a ticket for garbage cans left out the night before collection the fine is $100.
“[Garbage bins] are a very easy target for bears,” said Booth.
Booth says that if you find a bear on your property, the best thing to do is to give the animal space and an escape route if possible. Sightings in urban areas or sightings of bears that are aggressive should be reported to to the Conservation Officer Service’s 24/7 reporting line at 1-877-952-7277. This information is shared with WildSafeBC’s Wildlife Alert Reporting Program (WARP), available online at warp.wildsafebc.com. This program alerts the public to see what wildlife has been reported in their neighbourhood.
For more information about wildlife and how to reduce conflicts, Booth can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 250-886-9907. You can also find more information on the WildSafeBC Alberni Valley Facebook page.