PREVENTING BEAR-HUMAN CONFLICT

VANCOUVER – B.C.?s estimated black bear population of 80,000 to 100,000 consists of mostly healthy animals; however, greater interaction between bears and people is resulting in more aggressive behaviour in bears that are equally at home in the back country or your back yard.

The Conservation Officer Service (COS) in the Lower Mainland received more than 2,350 reports of bear sightings between April 1 and July 31.

During those four months, conservation officers attended 116 times when bears were acting aggressively or public safety was an issue. Twenty-three black bears were relocated and six bears had to be destroyed.

This week, two bears were destroyed in Coquitlam. One attacked a woman outside her home, while the other broke into a home through a window. A black bear was destroyed at a construction site on Highway 99 near Whistler, after it swiped at a woman who surprised it while the bear was rummaging through the garbage inside a construction office. A conservation officer and park rangers put down a black bear that was feeding out of a camper?s cooler yesterday at a busy campsite in Porpoise Bay Provincial Park, near Sechelt.

Bears can become aggressive, especially when seeking food in areas close to human habitat. Food-conditioned bears repeat their offences and may escalate their nehaviour in ever more threatening patterns.

This year?s berry crop was poor, and the bears are looking for food.Bears use their incredible sense of smell to zero in on food sources from many kilometres away, and they can be single-minded in their attempts to get at that food. For a bear, food comes in many forms, including garbage, pet food, barbecue leavings and over-ripe fruit in residential areas.

Conservation officers and bear awareness groups suggest adopting the following practices into your daily routine:

* Keep garbage secured in the house, garage or shed until pick-up day and return the containers to the secure site once they are emptied. * Pick ripe and fallen fruit daily and remove any unused fruit trees. * Use bird feeders only in winter. * Keep the ground free of seeds and nuts or treats for the squirrels and other wildlife, as food is plentiful for them at this time of year. * Clean the barbecue grill after each use. The smell of salmon or meat wafting from a grill for hours will draw bears. Store barbecues covered in a secure area. * Bring pet food dishes inside, store the food inside and don?t leave spillage lying around. * Don?t add meat products or uncooked food to compost, and turn it regularly and keep it covered. * Work with your neighbours to create a bear aware and problem-free neighbourhood.

If you encounter a bear, remember the following:

* Remain calm. Do not panic. * Stay away from the bear and bring children and pets indoors. * Never approach the bear but also do not run from it. * Warn others of the bear?s presence, without yelling. * Once the bear has left, check your yard to ensure there are no attractants available.

To effectively manage problem bears, humans need to change their own behaviours. These measures need the endorsement and implementation of an entire neighbour hood to work. A single container of attractants will continue to draw existing problem bears and create more problem bears.

If a bear is threatening, persistent or aggressive, the public can call the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) hotline toll-free at 1 877 952-RAPP (7277), #7277 on the TELUS Mobility Network, or visit the RAPP website at www.rapp.bc.ca. OR www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/bearsmart/bearsmintro.html.