At this time of year, bears are in “hyperphagia”, a period of intense eating and drinking in preparation for enduring their long, winter sleep. This is a time of year when the risk of conflict between people and bears is high, because bears are often out feeding during the day as they try to meet their nutritional requirements of up to 20,000 calories a day. A few people think that bears will starve if they don’t get help from humans heading into winter. This is very false! Bears have survived without human help for millennia, and they are very capable of finding natural food sources and water outside of urban areas. Bears choose to hang around urban areas because there is abundant, easy food they can access (such as garbage and fruit trees), and this is why many bears choose to live near humans and tolerate human activity. Unfortunately, this human tolerance often leads to “habituation”, which is the gradual loss of fear and wariness of people. It leads to boldness, and in some cases aggression, towards people and pets.
Habituation results in bears being put down in order to protect the safety of the general public. The worst part of this is that habituation is most often caused by neglectful people, who don’t make an effort to remove attractants from their yards and ensure their property is not inviting to wildlife. They are essentially “putting out the welcome mat” for wildlife to hang around their property, and to learn that it’s okay to tolerate humans and human activity because they receive a food reward in return. We can ALL help prevent the unnecessary habituation and destruction of bears by encouraging them not to spend time in our urban areas and by removing attractants from our properties. If there is nothing to draw a bear close to human property, then the chances of habituation are greatly lowered! Below are some very important things to remember over the next 3-4 weeks, as bears begin to transition from hyperphagia to their winter state of “torpor” (a very deep sleep).
• Hyperphagic bears are consuming extreme amounts of food and water, and urinating and defecating many times per day! You will likely see a lot of bear scat in areas where you have hyperphagic bears.
• Bears will often be out eating for more than 20 hours per day. Your chances of seeing or encountering a bear during the daylight hours are much higher now
• If you do see a bear, remember to stay in your vehicle or house, or retreat to a safe location and do not approach the animal. If it’s safe to do so, give it a honk with your car horn or bang some pots and pans together to give it negative reinforcement about being near humans. Report the sighting to RAPP: 1-877-952-7277.
• Pick your fruit trees, and remove as many chokecherries from the bushes around your property as you can! Make sure your garbage, bird-feeders, pumpkins, and other smelly attractants are kept clean and secured indoors. Don’t be the neighbour who leaves out the “welcome mat”.
For more, please check out www.wildsafebc.com
WildSafeBC is funded in part by the BC Ministry of Environment, District of Invermere, Village of Radium, RDEK Areas F & G, and Columbia Basin Trust.