Black Bear 'hunting' dead salmon. Photo by K Clouston

Black Bear ‘hunting’ dead salmon. Photo by K Clouston

We have salmon, therefore we also have black bear. Luckily we don’t also have Grizzly bear as there are no known permanent populations of grizzly on Vancouver Island. However, that does not mean we can be complacent. Black bear that are food habituated are dangerous!

How do we avoid creating a food habituated bear:

Garbage: Bears are smart and have good noses so they follow the scent of our garbage to our houses and help themselves to high calorie snacks while waiting for the salmon to arrive or before the food has become plentiful in the spring. To avoid this, keep garbage behind closed doors until the morning of pick-up. Also, clean your garbage can if you have had anything enticing in it.

Pet food: Feed pets indoors or if you can’t do that then only give them enough for one meal and then bring the empty dish inside to be cleaned.

Livestock food: Bears are omnivores and will therefore eat livestock food as well as pet food. This presents a double problem as they will come to eat the livestock food and may also decide to eat the livestock. The solution is to keep livestock food behind locked doors and, like the pet food, only provide enough for one meal.

Bird feeders: Bears will eat seeds as well and nice high calorie suet would be a bonus so be careful to wait until after bear season to put up bird feeders. Some people have them year round to attract a constant flow of birds and those people need to make sure they are hung high enough that bears can’t get at them, even by climbing, and that they won’t spill out on the ground below.

Bear cruising along a path in the headwaters.  Photo by J Palmer

Bear cruising along a path in the headwaters. Photo by J Palmer

Barbecues: An unclean barbecue can also be a problem by attracting bears to your neighbourhood. Scrape or burn off any residue and empty any grease catcher so there is nothing to attract the bear’s nose. If you can, store your barbecue behind locked doors after you have finished using it for the season.

Compost bins: Rotting food waste can attract bears and other wild animals so that is an important consideration when creating a compost bin as well as when using it. It is best to put a layer of soil, lime or bleach on top to reduce the enticing odours.

Fruit trees and gardens: To avoid sharing your produce with the bears it is important to harvest your crops before the bears come to visit.

If you can’t harvest soon enough or carry out some of the other suggestions in this section, then you might want to consider an electric fence to condition the bears not to enter your property. The BC Conservation Office website recommends:

“Electric fences must be 4 feet high with a quick pulse. If the pulse is too slow bears can learn to move through between pulses. Use metal not wooden posts as bears can climb wood. Electric fencing is cost effective and relatively easy to install. Contact your local fencing company or supply store for more information.”