In an effort to reduce human-wildlife conflicts, the B.C. Conservation Officer Service (COS) recently conducted a province-wide bear attractant audit resulting in 732 enforcement actions.
In the Skeena region, 78 inspections yielded 54 enforcement actions, a rate of approximately 0.69 actions per inspection. This compares to 0.22 for the Thompson-Cariboo region, however other regions were as high as 2.55 actions per inspection (South Coast).
During the audits, conservation officers (CO) patrolled neighbourhoods and other areas to ensure attractants were properly secured by using bear-proof bins. They also checked if excess fruit had been picked from trees and electric fencing was used around livestock.
The audits, which began in summer 2019 but ramped up in the fall months, also resulted in 76 charges throughout the province. Additionally, 355 property owners received Dangerous Wildlife Protection Orders, directing them to remove an attractant or face a $575 fine.
The audits had a particular focus on areas where there has been a history of bear conflicts or where unsecured attractants, such as garbage, pet food, birdseed and compost, have historically led to issues with bears.
A second phase of the audit is planned for spring 2020 which will focus on the period after bears have woken up from winter hibernation.
“Every year, too many bears and other wildlife are destroyed [a term COs use to denote the killing of an animal] because their natural behaviour has been altered due to easy access to non-natural food sources like garbage,” a Dec. 20 release reads. “Habituated bears lose their fear of people and gain appetites for non-natural food, putting both themselves and communities at risk.”
Doug Forsdick, chief conservation officer for COS is reminding people to take care with any bear attractants regardless of whether they are at home or out in the bush.
“Public safety is paramount,” he said. “The Conservation Officer Service cannot stress enough that the best way to keep people safe and bears from being destroyed is to secure attractants around your home, business or campsite. The Conservation Officer Service hopes that through these attractant audits, the public will recognize that more needs to be done to ensure everyone does their part to help keep wildlife wild. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to ensure their attractants are properly managed.”
According to the COS, every year they receive more than 25,000 reports of human-wildlife conflicts, a large number of which are related to bears and unsecured attractants. The Bear Smart Community Program encourages communities to achieve “Bear Smart” status by following a series of set criteria aimed at reducing human-bear conflicts. Eight communities in B.C. have attained the status: Kamloops, Squamish, Lions Bay, Whistler, Port Alberni, Naramata, New Denver and Coquitlam.
Fines related to attractant legislation can range from $230 to $575.