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Don’t leave the fruits of your labour to the bears

Keeping fruit trees bare is just one of many ways to mitigate human-bear conflict
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The time of year when fruit trees ripen is here, and the bears are well aware.

Apple, cherry, and pear trees are just some fruits that bears like to get their paws on in the late summer months. Laylah Fariad, of WildSafeBC’s Cariboo region, says picking your fruit before or when they become ripe is one way to mitigate human-bear conflict.

“You can ripen your fruits in fruit baskets after they are picked or indoors. You can also contact neighbours or friends who may come and help you pick those apples if you don’t have the time,” said Fariad.

Every year, hundreds of bears are destroyed in B.C. as a result of human-bear conflicts. In rare instances, people are also injured or even killed. Most of these instances begin when people allow bears to access non-natural food sources such as garbage.

The Bear Smart Community Program is designed and run by the Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy in partnership with the British Columbia Conservation Foundation to address the root causes of human-bear conflicts, reducing the risks to human safety and private property.

In the Cariboo Region, it is recommended that residents do not put their garbage and other bear attractants out before 7 a.m., and remove them as soon as possible.

Fariad added that many communities have fruit-cleaning services to pick your trees for you. In regards to using pesticide sprays on trees to keep bears and other animals at bay, she says she uses some non-traditional methods to help deter wildlife.

“We spray our fruit trees with lime, a powder you can get from any hardware store like Home Depot. You can form it into a liquid and spray your tree; it also helps with diseases,” said Fariad.

She says there has been an increase in bear sightings around the Cariboo region, and one of the contributing factors could be the scarcity of wild berries such as saskatoons, blueberries and huckleberries.

“Other wildlife is a factor. They could be eating the berries, but it can also be just environmental factors like climate. Cariboo weather is very inclement, and it changes. We have really cold evenings, cold mornings, and then it can get really hot… The climate definitely affects the berry bush population too.”

Another reason people might see more bears is the growing population that has created more attractants. Leaving garbage out before the specified times, birdfeeders and leaving out dog food bowls overnight can put your property at risk of being a familiar bear hangout.

Feeders should not go up till late December and come down in April. Bears are habitual creatures; once they identify a property with having food, they will most likely return.

Cariboo-Thompson Zone conservation officer Murray Booth says the best way to protect the bears and your property is to manage attractants.

“That’s where the responsibility comes in,” said Booth. “It’s called the big three: manage your fruit, manage your garbage, and any other unnatural attractants. We despise having to kill bears; it’s probably the worst part of our job, but ending the bears’ life is generally related to bad attractant management.”

Booth says another issue right now is that the COS is shortstaffed, so it is sometimes difficult to keep up with all the duties.

However, he encourages people to remain vigilant as bears are being pushed more into human territory due to the wildfire season, causing more animals to wander into residential areas looking for habitat and food.

Fariad says the latest you will see bears is probably late October or even sometime in November.

“Grizzly bears can sometimes go into hibernation later than black bears,” said Fariad. “So just doing your best during that busy time, you’ll keep the wildlife and the community safe.”

For more information on how to keep your property bear smart, go to www.wildsafe.com. And to report any conflicts with wildlife or violations to the B.C. Conservation Officer Service’s (RAPP) line at 877-952-7277.

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