By Steve Hubrecht 

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The snow is gone, flowers are blooming, bees are buzzing — and the bears are back in town.

Columbia Valley residents are used to black bears wandering the streets of local communities each fall, searching for high-calorie food sources in garbage bins or backyard fruit trees, before hibernating. But it’s not just fall — sometimes bears enter urban environments in the spring too, when they are fresh out of hibernation and their natural food sources are limited.

That’s exactly what’s happened this spring. The Pioneer has received multiple reports of a bear family – a mother sow and three yearling cubs — wandering around the Wilder subdivision and nearby areas of Invermere over the past week. The bears’ appearance in town may have been hastened by the fact that they are already quite familiar with the community: it’s the same mama bear and three cubs that came into Invermere last October and hung around here until at least December, raiding apple trees, peach trees, apricot trees and, especially, garbage cans not kept indoors when they should have been.

Columbia-Kootenay Conservation Officer Sgt. Greg Kruger confirmed that the bears hanging out in Invermere now are the same ones from last fall. He explained it’s not completely unusual to see bears come into communities in the spring time, since their natural food sources — such as berries — are not yet accessible. Right now, all that’s available for them to eat outside of town is grass and dandelions.

“We are hoping that they will go back into the forest in a few weeks,” Kruger told the Pioneer. “Unfortunately they have gotten into some unnatural food sources in town — unsecured garbages. We are continuing education around that, and giving fines for that, but unfortunately the problem (unsecured garbage ) is continuing.”

Garbage must be kept indoors until a few hours prior to scheduled municipal garbage pickup times for each neighbourhood.

The bear family has spent most of its time in Invermere in the Wilder subdivision, and in the southern end of the community towards Westside Road, including the Westside Park neighbourhood.

Parents and pet owners are advised to keep a closer eye on their charges while the bear family is in town.