Garbage, and now fruit, continues to be a nagging problem for those trying to mitigate human-wildlife conflict in Summerland.
Zoe Kirk, Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen WildSafeBC community coordinator, said Summerland continues to be a hotspot for bears. One of the reasons is residents putting their garbage out early.
“It is like a smorgasbord for the animals,” said Kirk. “They get the smells of tomatoes or old pizza and come back again and again. They get habituated and addicted to it much like humans and fast-food restaurants. They just get hooked.”
Currently Summerland does not have a bylaw that restricts residents from putting out their garbage the night before it is picked up.
“It is a matter of getting personnel out on the ground and an education campaign like WildSafeBC did in Naramata.
For it to be a success in a larger community like Summerland it takes much more of an effort to get the awareness out there,” said Kirk.
WildSafeBC plans on working a lot more in the area in the late summer and fall with a door-to-door campaign and tagging garbage that is left out early.
Fruit trees are also a concern. Kirk said while orchardists tend to take fruit off the trees just before they ripen and bears might wander through in the evenings, residential fruit tree owners might leave it on until it is ripe.
“This is just an invitation for bears. I encourage people with residential fruit trees that do not use the fruit to allow others to pick it for them and to keep it off the ground,” said Kirk.
Bears, according to Kirk, have a nose five times more sensitive than a blood hounds. She said they can smell a peanut butter sandwich from over a kilometre away.
“Many people don’t realize just how strong of smell they have. Putting your garbage or leaving fruit to rot in your yard is just inviting a bear to come and snack. It can become even worse of a problem if you are leaving these attractants on your patio or balcony,” she said.
As part of their awareness campaign, Kirk said WildSafeBC will be holding a number of information sessions about electric fences.
“These seem to be the best deterrent. It gives them a good zap, but not enough to hurt them. It generally keeps them away as well as deer,” said Kirk.
Experts will be brought in for the workshops geared for both orchardists and residential fruit tree owners in the fall.
Kirk said with the wave of warm weather Summerland has been experiencing she expects most bears to head back into the hills.
“We have had sightings of bears in the Giant’s Head area and they have been causing some disturbances. But I suspect they will heading to the hills soon and then come back down middle to end of August,” said Kirk. “That is why it is a good time to get prepared and start to think like a bear.”