Bears are waking up after winter hibernation and the Conservation Officer Service is issuing warnings to the Kitimat public in advance to deter potential conflict with humans.
“We are asking people to do their part and to help us keep the bears wild,” Alexander Lyubomudrov conservation officer with the North Coast Zone said, on April 9.
“Bears do not know or identify boundaries of human communities,” the conservation officer said. “With their sense of smell, they are [drawn] to artificial attractants like household garbage, food packaging, recycling containers, scraps, anything that is capable of decomposing.”
Conversation Officer Service typically receive between 300 and 500 reports of human/wildlife conflicts per fiscal year (April to March) in its North Coast zone, which covers Terrace, Kitimat, Prince Rupert, the Nass Valley, and neighbouring coastal areas
“Once bears get rewarded it is really hard to stop them coming back. They become habituated and their chances of survival decrease dramatically to look for natural crops and natural food sources. They lose many of their biological traits,” he said.
Habituation alters bears’ behaviour and those changes are the cause of human-wildlife conflicts Lyubomudrov said, not the numbers of bears or wildlife populations.
The region is known for its grizzly bears, however there higher instances of conflict with black bears, he said. Responses differ from one species to another.
“I would suggest that people be extra cautious around family groups of wild animals … but a general rule of thumb will be to give them space and try to avoid getting between the mother and any cubs.”
The Conservation Officer Service is advising that all attractants are kept secure and inaccessible to wildlife. Leave garbage in a shed or garage. “One of the most important things we are asking people is to call the RAPP line early … as it gives us a wider range of options to respond before it gets too late. It’s better for us to know as early as possible before there is any conflict,” Lyubomudrov said.
The RAPP line number is 1-877-952-7277.