Black bear dines at Summerland rabbit hutch

Bears have been observed in the South Okanagan, in search of food

A hungry bear in search of food dined on rabbits at a property in Summerland.

The incident occurred earlier this week when the black bear strolled onto a property and walked on top of a rabbit hutch. The hutch gave way and the bear, then trapped inside, devoured six of the rabbits inside.

Mike Stern, a conservation officer based in Penticton, said the property owner will now set up an electric fence to deter bears from the property.

While it is not common for bears to eat rabbits, chickens or other small animals, it can happen if those animals are conveniently accessible for the bear. Not surprisingly, the majority of bear issues in Summerland involve garbage or fruit.

READ ALSO: Wildlife experts urge caution as Okanagan bears wake up for spring

READ ALSO: South Okanagan hunter fined after luring bears in with greased logs, dog food

Garbage is an ongoing concern as some Summerland residents will set out their garbage for pickup the evening before collection, rather than the morning when garbage is to be collected.

Stern said bears have awoken for hibernation and, while they will spend the summer at higher elevations, they are looking for food before they make the trip.

“As soon as they get out of their dens, they’re hungry,” he said.

Bears tend to look for easy food sources, including garbage, pet food and bird seed.

To discourage bears, Stern advises residents to keep their garbage inside until the morning of collection day.

He also urges people not to use bird feeders, since birds do not need the food and the spilled seeds will attract bears.

Pet foods should also be kept inside as the scents can serve to attract bears.

Stern said conservation officers can speak with homeowners and issue warnings for those who are leaving out garbage or other attractants for bears.

Those who do not clean up their properties can be issued a ticket for $575 for attracting wildlife.

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