Bears look for easy food sources

Bears in search of a meal have been seen in South Okanagan communities from Peachland to Osoyoos this spring.

Bears in search of a meal have been seen in South Okanagan communities from Peachland to Osoyoos this spring.

Bob Hamilton, a conservation officer with the Ministry of Environment, said there have been 47 reports since April 1, including six in Summerland.

Many of the Summerland reports came earlier this month when a dead bear was observed in shallow water in the dog area at Sunoka Beach.

Police and conservation officers said the bear was likely hit by a vehicle and fell into the water.

Earlier this year, Hamilton said there were reports of a bear in the Lowertown area of the community.

Despite these reports, he said Summerland has not had many bear sightings this year.

Elsewhere in the South Okanagan, a large black bear was trapped and destroyed in Okanagan Falls after it killed three llamas.

Hamilton said such behaviour is not common.

“Bears in the Okanagan are pretty well fed,” he said. “Going after livestock is a rarity.”

The main cause of conflicts between people and bears is access to food sources, particularly garbage.

Hamilton urges people to put their garbage out on the morning it is to be collected, not the night before.

Bird feeders and dog food also attract bears since they can easily smell the food.

Bears are also able to pry open freezers in carports or driveways to get at the food inside.

Hamilton said those with freezers outside should have double hasps installed, in order to make it more difficult for a bear to break into the freezer.

While bear sightings in the area are more common in fall when the fruit is ripe, Hamilton said sightings also spike in late spring.

Conflicts between people and bears have been reported around the province.

In 2011 to 2012, the Conservation Officer Service received roughly 37,500 calls about human-wildlife conflicts, 23,000 of those involving bears.

Over the last five years, an average of 600 black bears have been destroyed while 93 have been relocated annually.

Recent changes to the Wildlife Act mean those who do not secure attractants could face a $230 fine.

Those who intentionally leave out items which  attract dangerous wildlife could be given a Dangerous Wildlife Protection Order. Failing to comply with the order carries a $575 fine.