Living with bears

With an estimated 120,000 black bears in this province, bear safety and bear awareness become facts of life.

B.C. is bear country.

With an estimated 120,000 black bears — one-quarter of the entire Canadian black bear population — in this province, bear safety and bear awareness become facts of life.

Last week, a mother bear and two cubs were observed in a tree on Steven Avenue for a day. The incident occurred in a residential neighbourhood and within blocks of Summerland’s downtown.

It was a little too close for comfort.

Each year, there are reports of bear sightings near orchards and vineyards or in the outlying, less populated parts of Summerland. In these cases, the bears are drawn by the smells of the ripening fruit and grapes.

Last week’s bear incident was more disturbing because it was in a heavily populated residential area.

This is not the first time bears have come close to people in Summerland.

We have had other encounters this year.  Such encounters are not good for those of us who live here. Bears are wild animals and potentially dangerous.

The encounters are not good for the bears either.

Four problem bears in Summerland have been destroyed this year and two others have been tagged so conservation officials could track their movements.

We need to do more to reduce the number of bear incidents in Summerland and in the area.

Conservation and bear awareness representatives have urged the public to keep attractants such as garbage, bird seed and overripe fruit where bears cannot access them.

A bylaw regulating when garbage may be set out at the curb has also been proposed. In Naramata, such a bylaw helped to dramatically reduce the number of bear incidents.

Still, despite the best efforts in our community, we will continue to have some contact with bears. We need to learn how to handle such encounters to avoid a serious incident in the future.