British Columbia

Dozy B.C. bears waking to spring renew calls to secure tempting trash

Bears are waking up a bit early in B.C. this spring and looking to kick start their digestive systems with grass and greens, according to experts.

‘They are like a 3-year-old kid that hasn’t had a nap …. kind of real lethargic’

Black bear checks out the trees for food in Grand Forks, B.C. There are more than 150,000 black bears in the province and wildlife experts say that makes most of the province bear country. (Janice Redlin)

Bears are waking up a bit early in B.C. this spring and looking to kick-start their digestive systems with grass and greens, according to experts.

And as the province's estimated population of more than 165,000 bruins awakens from its slumber, conservation officers are renewing their warning to people to keep their garbage bins secure and clean up barbecues and bird feeders.

"Spring seems to have come on very quickly this year … so, it is possible that bears will be heading out a bit earlier," said Vanessa Isnardy of WildSafeBC.

She said that the warmth acts like an alarm clock for a hibernating bear.

The animals first eat grasses and vegetation and then transition to carrion or small mammals.

They are like a three-year-old kid that hasn't had a nap.- Prince George conservation officer

Some bears never hibernate, if the weather remains mild or they find a food source.

A black bear trolls driveways for unlatched garbage bins with no luck in Port Moody. Many of these animals end up shot because they get too comfortable around people. (Curt Petrovich/CBC News)

But others rouse in late March and head out in search of delicious skunk cabbage.

And year-rouind, they are also interested in garbage or uncleaned barbecues.

'Real lethargic'

Prince George conservation Sgt. Steve Ackles says the first bear reports started about two weeks ago.

He says one of the first calls he received made him laugh — a report of a bear in a tree.

Ackles said people were watching the bear and it hadn't moved in three hours, but, upon investigation, it turned out it was just sleeping.

"They are like a three-year-old kid that hasn't had a nap. They are just dozy. Don't know what they are doing," he said.

"They will just kind of lay in the sun, if there is some, and [are] just kind of real lethargic."

A black bear eating salmon on the shoreline of Gribbel Island in the Great Bear Rainforest. (Tim McGrath)

The most common bear in B.C. is the black bear. This province has one of the largest populations on the planet.

It's estimated at about 150,000 animals. And because it's common the animal often interacts with humans or wanders suburbs.

There are close to 15,000 grizzlies — about a quarter of the entire North American population, according to the provincial government.

Ackles urges people who spot a bear — especially near homes — to call the RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277.

Bears are not killed for being near neighbourhoods. He says conservation officers can save bears if alerted where they are roaming, so that they can educate people who might have contact with the bear.

That way, Ackles says, people know not to leave out garbage or let the bear get too comfortable with humans — which will give the animal a better chance of survival.

About the Author

Yvette Brend is a CBC Vancouver journalist. @ybrend


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