Volunteers are planning to survey Smithers residents about bear safety in an effort to prevent dangerous encounters.

Bear safety survey aims to educate Smithers residents, prevent dangerous encounters

A group of volunteers will survey Smithers residents about bear safety in an effort to improve awareness and avoid encounters.

Smithers conservation officer Kevin Nixon once got a phone call about a bear sniffing at the back door of a Main Street restaurant.

It was the first report he received about the bear before it followed its nose to the food smells wafting from the local eatery.

Somehow, the wild animal had walked through the centre of town without anybody noticing it.

According to Nixon, cases like these highlight the fact that bears can be found anywhere in Smithers.

For this reason, the Ministry of Environment worker said residents of urban and rural areas alike need to take precautions to avoid attracting the bears to their homes.

A group of volunteers will this month hit the streets of Smithers to survey and educate residents about how to avoid attracting bears to their homes.

Nixon said the results of a similar survey in Telkwa last year exposed a “shocking” lack of awareness, highlighting a need for more education.

He said the main problems were people putting out their garbage the night before pick-up and leaving apple trees overflowing with fruit.

He said many people were unaware their activities could attract bears, particularly in urban parts of Smithers.

“We have these hidden green belts in town,” he said.

“There’s a small green belt right behind the hospital, believe it or not we have bears in there all the time.

“They will rummage around that neighbourhood and they will find garbage and they will bring it back to

the green belt.”

Six volunteers will conduct the upcoming survey in Smithers, which is part of the WildSafe BC program aimed at reducing human and wildlife conflict.

Nixon said there would always be bears in the community but educating the public about safety precautions would help prevent dangerous encounters.

“Once the bear is conditioned to human food it is very difficult for us to have to deal with,” he said.

“Nine times out of 10 we are going to have to destroy it because it gets to be more and more bold as they get more and more conditioned to human food, thus creating a very dangerous situation.”

He said bear activity in Smithers had been low in 2015 compared with last year, which Nixon said was one of the worst he had seen.

He attributed the change to bumper berry crops keeping the bears well-fed.

For more information about bear safety visit wildsafebc.com. Bear sightings can be reported to 1-877-952-7279.


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