The Maple Ridge Bear Aware program coordinator is hoping locals won’t keep bears from hibernating this year by feeding them.
Bears won’t go to sleep for the winter if there is food around, usually found in unsecured garbages, said Bear Aware community coordinator Rosie Wijenberg.
The Bear Aware program is on a winter break, but Wijenberg said some bears appear to be skipping their winter nap as food is still available in the area.
Bears that get habituated to feeding off garbage will eventually turn into problem bears and will have to be put down, she said.
In colder climates bears hibernate in response to seasonal food scarcity; however, not all bears will go into hibernation if food is readily available.
“People should not assume that our local bears sleep through the winter,” said Wijenberg. “In particular, local food-conditioned bears have no reason to sleep as some residents continue to supply them with an abundant food source all through the winter… garbage.”
In some areas, for example, Albion, Kanaka Creek, and Whonnock, people have been feeding raccoons and deer, but this also attracts bears, Wijenberg said.
In response, the conservation officer service can issue $230 fine under the Wildlife Act to residents who don’t get rid of attractants, she added.
Residents are encouraged to call the conservation office via the RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277 to report human-bear conflict and wildlife sightings.
In past years many local bears have learned to utilize human-based food sources, such as garbage and fruit, causing safety concerns for residents and resulting in the destruction of 15 bears in 2011.
In an effort to reduce human-bear conflict, the District of Maple Ridge, with the support of the Ridge Meadows Recycling Society and in cooperation with the conservation office, instituted the BC Conservation Foundation’s Bear Aware program in 2012.
The Bear Aware program initiated a public education campaign, raising awareness on bear attractant management, helping residents make their neighbourhoods safer, and preventing the unnecessary destruction of local bears. So far only two bears have had to be destroyed in Maple Ridge this year.
“Rosie and Dan Mikolay, Ridge Meadows Recycling Society’s environmental educator, have been working together at schools and community events to promote ways to manage waste and other bear attractants to reduce the number of conflicts between people and bears,” said Jon Harris, Ridge Meadows Recycling Society’s president.
“It was a great year.” Wijenberg said, “Made better by a team of enthusiastic volunteers who helped with door-to-door canvassing and displays at community events. The highlight of the volunteer program was definitely the Albion Park bear cache cleanup with the Maple Ridge Community Builders!”
For more information about Bear Aware, go to www.bearaware.bc.ca.