How to keep black bears out of your backyard

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Black Bear via Shutterstock

With the warmer months approaching, Vancouver’s local black bears are coming out of hibernation and looking for a feast, but residents should take precautions to ensure the friendly bears don’t come knocking on their doors.

There are an estimated 120,000 to 160,000 black bears in British Columbia, and spotting one in Metro Vancouver is becoming more common thanks to our growing land development and easy supply of snacks. On Vancouver’s North Shore, it is all too frequent for residents to see a bear sifting through garbage or simply wandering down the street.

Image: Black bear / Shutterstock

SEE ALSO: Black bear on the loose in South Vancouver

Though these bears typically avoid confronting humans when possible, their habituation into our communities makes them more familiar with humans and fear us less, especially when they have easy access to food. According to the District of West Vancouver, garbage is the cause of 80 per cent of interactions between humans and bears on the North Shore.

“Almost all of these bears were attracted into neighbourhoods by improperly stored garbage and other attractants. Bears can smell garbage and other potential food sources over great distances. When bears learn that garbage is food, they will come back to it again and again,” the District of North Vancouver states on their Bear Awareness page.

Image: Vancouver Police Department

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Aside from safety disturbances, the unfortunate aspect of bears being in our neighbourhoods is that many of them will be killed. According to North Vancouver, over 1,000 bears are killed every year in B.C., and “when bears become conditioned to garbage and other non-natural foods, often the only practical solution is to kill them. Relocation is usually unsuccessful and is dangerous and expensive.”

Bears’ diets should normally consist of berries, green vegetation, roots, insects, grubs and carrion.

Residents can help keep bears happy and healthy by doing the following:

  • Place garbage at curbside only on the morning of the designated collection day.
  • Store all garbage in house, garage, shed or other secure enclosure. If you have to store your garbage outside or in a shed, store it in a wildlife resistant enclosure
  • Remove bird feeders during bear season or suspend them very high on a cable. Place only a small amount of high quality food in the feeder and clean beneath it daily.
  • Pick fruit from trees as soon as it is ripe, and remove any fruit that falls to the ground.
  • Compost fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, tea bags and yard trimmings. Match the volume of kitchen scraps with equal amounts of “brown” material, such as low-quality household papers, newspaper strips or fallen leaves. Remember to aerate each time you add food and keep a lid on the bin.
  • Keep pet food inside.
  • Keep refrigerators and freezers inside.
  • Clean barbecues thoroughly after each use.
  • Put away all petroleum products, including rubber, tarpaper, paint, turpentine, kerosene and charcoal fluid—these products attract bears

Despite all measures, bears may still be found wandering Vancouver neighbourhoods. In the occasion that you spot a bear, you can call the Ministry of Environment (if in the City of Vancouver) at 1-877-952-7277. The North Shore Bear Society also recommends the following:

  • Give the bear lots of space, and go inside with your pets
  • If the bear is eating, let it finish as eating is its number 1 priority
  • From a safe vantage point, shout loudly, bang pots or throw water balloons and wave your arms to let the bear know it is not welcome. Remember to accompany the unwelcoming experience with your voice
  • When the bear has left, remove all attractants from yard. Keep in mind that it will likely return several times to check for the same source of food that it found before
  • Let your neighbours know about the bear and tell them to remove attractants
  • Report your sighting to 604-990-BEAR(2327)

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Jill Slattery Jill Slattery was born and raised in Vancouver, where she also earned an Arts degree from UBC in English and Creative Writing. She is an avid TV-watcher and a shameless Taylor Swift fangirl. Jill is a Staff Writer at Vancity Buzz. Contact her at jill@vancitybuzz.com
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