As bears prepare for winter, it’s time to be extra cautious with attractants: WildSafe BC

Bears are actively fattening up for winter right now. Submitted photo

Bears are actively fattening up for winter right now. Submitted photo

According to WildSafe BC Provincial Support Coordinator, Kathy Murray, there have been many reports of human/wildlife conflict in recent days.

This is a particularly active time for bears as they prepare to den up for winter. Murray explains that they go into a period called hyperphagia from late August to November. Hyperphagia translates to extreme eating, and bears may consume over 20,000 calories per day. During this time, bears are active day and night, and may forage over 17 hours per day.

“During this time, bears are highly food motivated and if they are successful at receiving easy calories within our communities, they may linger. Bears that spend time foraging in our communities may become more persistent, leading to property damage, conflicts with pets, and collisions with vehicles. There is always the risk to public safety if a bear is surprised or confined. It is imperative for everyone to secure any potential sources of calories for bears so that they are not rewarded for coming into our communities.”

Bears have an incredible sense of smell and can be attracted to odours from garbage, pet food, barbecues, bird seed in feeders, fruit trees, berry bushes, compost, fruit and vegetable gardens, beehives, chickens and small livestock. These temptations bring them into our neighbourhoods and closer to our homes, which can result in property damage and safety concerns for both people and bears. Things you can do to help reduce conflicts with bears is to:

• Ensure garbage and recyclables are stored inside until the morning of collection.

• If you do not have an indoor space to store your garbage, use a bear-resistant container.

• High reward and odourous items, such as meat scraps and food leftovers, should be frozen until the day of collection.

• Feed pets indoors.

• Keep livestock feed indoors and in a secure container.

• Keep barbecues clean by burning off bits of food, giving the grills a good scrape, and cleaning the grease trap after each use.

• Do not use bird feeders until winter. Offer a bird bath or plant flowers instead.

• Harvest fruit and berries before they ripen and pick up fallen fruit. If you must leave fruit on trees to ripen, protect them with an electric fence (see below).

• Secure fruit and vegetable gardens, beehives, chickens, and other small livestock with electric fencing (check local bylaws first).

• Maintain an odour-free compost.

Once a bear has found a relatively easy food source, they are unlikely to forget where it is.

They are likely to return year after year, Murray says.

“Help break the cycle and never let a bear associate your neighbourhood with good foraging habitat. It is important to report sightings and conflicts with bears to the Conservation Officer Service (COS) (1-877-952-7277) in a proactive manner before a bear becomes food-conditioned. These reports help inform our Wildlife Alert Reporting Program which is data used by WildSafeBC and others to prioritize education and outreach. This data is available to everyone. Do not wait until a bear becomes a threat to community safety before calling it in. Speak with your neighbours and work collectively as a community to secure all food sources.”

For those heading out into Kimberley’s abundant trail system, remember these tips on how to stay safe when in the wild:

• Remember, BC is Wildlife Country. Always assume you may encounter wildlife and be prepared.

• Watch for bear signs such as scat, tracks, claw or bite marks on trees, and overturned logs, rocks or stumps where bears have looked for insects and their larvae.

• Obey any signage warning of wildlife activity or trail closures.

• Travel in groups and avoid surprising a bear by talking, singing or clapping your hands. Bear bells are not known to be effective.

• Keep your dogs on leash as wildlife may perceive them as a potential threat or prey.

• Always carry bear spray and learn how to use it and transport it safely.

If you encounter a bear, stop, remain calm, do not turn your back, and never run. Have your bear spray ready. Keep your eye on the bear and back away slowly, talking calmly. Do not let a bear approach you. Learn more about how to recreate safely in bear country by taking WildSafeBC’s free online course at

READ: Spike in bears breaking into cars to grab food spark warning from B.C. conservation officers

READ: Grizzly visits Lower Blarchmont area of Kimberley

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