British Columbia

Education is key in preventing bear deaths

It has been a wild summer for bear encounters, and the North Shore Black Bear Society says education is an effective way to prevent the animals from dying.

The North Shore Black Bear Society says campaigns that teach people to be bear-aware work

Nine bears were killed in Revelstoke in one week. (Submitted by Parks Canada)

It has been a wild summer for bear troubles in British Columbia.

A 10-year-old Port Coquitlam girl was mauled by a beara bear charged a Maple Ridge woman and another terrified a hiker when it followed him.

Fines have been levied against homeowners who leave their garbage and fruit trees rotting, and the problems will escalate as bears begin their late summer feeding frenzy before the long winter.

Nine bears were killed in one week in Revelstoke after they wandered into town, and many adult bears have been put down after coming too close for comfort.

Christine Miller, the education coordinator at the North Shore Black Bear Society, told Stephen Quinn on the The Early Edition that sometimes putting down a habituated bear might be the only solution.

"He trusts people which is really unfortunate for him."

Miller said sometimes bears become habituated as cubs when people feed them or leave garbage around, and then end up posing a huge safety risk when they grow into adults.

Relocation efforts often don't work, she said, as bears will generally return back to the problem areas.

Easy to take proactive steps

Miller says there are easy steps people can take to prevent the destruction of more bears than necessary and education is an important component.

North Vancouver is a community she says has learned to co-exist with the bear population — largely because of a dedicated public education campaign.

"It's taken over a decade but they really understood freezing odourous foods that are going into their green can, not storing odorous garbage outside, and we have very little problem with that."

But Miller said this education component has to be supported with a good relationship with conservation officers and bylaw officers.

For example, she said Revelstoke needs its own conservation officer to focus on the community's bear issues.

"They have one conservation officer stationed in Golden and it takes him an hour and a half to get to Revelstoke. It's impossible for somebody in that situation to do anything that's proactive in terms of reducing attractants and managing the bears in a non-lethal manner."

"These are not rogue beasts coming to town to disturb people, they are just opportunistic feeders."

With files from The Early Edition

To hear the interview, click on the link labelled The North Shore Black Bear society on how to be bear-aware