By Greg Amos

Two bears made the news this week, but many more have been showing up in conversations around the valley.

The fading light of summer is spurring our local ursus americanus (black bear) population to forage like mad in preparation for the upcoming hibernation season. While were not obliged to match that level of effort in preparing for winter, we do owe it to our local bears to keep them honest by keeping our garbage and other bear attractants securely out of reach.

This message is the reason for the Bear Aware programs existence, and its a message that is slowly getting through. That said, it just takes one temporary lapse of carefulness to create a bewildering situation such as that faced by the cub in Radium Hot Springs two weeks ago. I might emerge from the dumpster with the same frazzled expression (see page 5) if I were the one locked inside it for hours.

But the cub, despite not being immediately re-united with its mother, came out of that situation relatively unscathed, unlike the suspected marauding bear that was trapped and killed earlier this month near Invermere.

I dont yet have the numbers for how many bears conservation officers are forced to kill each year in the Columbia Valley, but its almost certain that number could be lowered with greater awareness and effort around bear-proofing. I would wager theres not a yard in the valley that hasnt at least been cased out by a hungry bear, so this advice really applies to every homeowner in the region.

How we look out for local wildlife says a lot about who we are as a community. The obviously dissenting views around recent deer culls serves as notice that we dont all see our responsibility the same way. Despite all efforts to the contrary, developing a community will always have a squeeze effect on local wildlife habitat. Culls and kills may in the end be necessary in certain cases, but should always be treated as a worst-case scenario.

Its up to us to look out for local wildlife, to ensure we dont have to make such hard choices.