Hungry bears are turning to garbage containers as they search for food for the winter.
Meg Bjordal, Okanagan Westside WildSafeBC Community Coordinator, said bears are now entering a phase of intense eating, called hyperphagia, as they fatten up for the winter.
During this time of year, they can eat as much as 20,000 calories a day.
Bjordal said garbage cans left at the curb overnight provide an easy source of food for bears.
“Bears have an excellent sense of smell and are opportunistic omnivores; as such, they can smell garbage and other human-provided food sources from a long distance away and can be drawn into urban areas,” she said. “If they are able to access these human provided food sources, such as garbage, fruit trees, compost and bird feeders, they can become food conditioned, which eventually leads to habituation to humans.”
She added that when bears lose their natural fear of people there are safety concerns.
“In order to keep the community safe, and the bears wild, it is important for residents to manage bear attractants,” she said.
She urges people to keep their garbage secure until the morning of collection day, preferable in a garage, shed or indoors.
Fruit should be picked as it ripens or falls on the ground, and bird feeders should be taken down, she adds.
Summerland has had its share of bear encounters.
From Aug. 1, 2017 to July 31, 2018, there were 121 calls to the Conservation Officer Service about wildlife in Summerland. Of these calls, 60 per cent were about black bears.
Bjordal believes the number of bear sightings in Summerland is likely underreported.
Of the 73 black bear calls from Aug. 1, 2017 to July 31, 47 were because of attractants and 28 of those were because of garbage.
Fruit trees and berries were identified in nine of the cases of attractants.
Candace Pilling, solid waste and recycling operations project manager with the municipality of Summerland, said residents should wait until the day of their garbage pick up to take their garbage out.
“You shouldn’t be putting your cans out the evening before,” she said. “It’s like a smorgasbord for bears.”
Crews have been out at times and have put tags on containers left out too early. However, residents are not being issued tickets or fines at this time.
Those who are concerned about bears getting into their garbage can also switch to a bear-resistant garbage container. There is a $100 fee to switch the existing garbage container with a bear-resistant container.
More information on black bears and how to manage attractants can be found online at wildsafebc.com.