Audits are underway checking garbage to protect bears

Bear safe audits underway

Authorities are on the road in the South Okanagan checking to ensure private properties are adhering to bear-safe practices when it comes to bringing garbage and recycling to the curb.

"During this fall, the Conservation Officer Service and RDOS WildSafe BC, we are conducting evening audits, and audits in areas that we call hot spots of bear activity," said Zoe Kirk, Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen public works projects coordinator.

"And the reason we're out doing what we call 'garbage audits' is to look at those communities that have curbside bylaws and make sure that people are adhering to them and not putting their garbage out the night before which attracts wildlife into your neighbourhood."

Local bears are currently in the middle of hyperphagia, a phase of constant hunger they go through before retiring to their dens for the winter in an effort to pack on as many pounds as possible. 

"I don't know if you've every woken up really hungry and ravenous, but they are like that 20 hours a day for two months trying to get upwards of 24,000 calories a day," Kirk said.

"We need to remember that bears can smell five times better than a bloodhound, so even recycling that we think is clean, can often be a terrific lure to a bear."

People who are found putting garbage out overnight can be warned by letter or left information pamphlets. But repeat offenders will face more. 

"On those recidivism cases where we somebody repeatedly leaving garbage out early, then conservation officers can go in and lay a 'dangerous wildlife protection order,' and that's a pretty serious offence," Kirk explained. 

Most recently, an audit was completed in Naramata. Several properties were found in violation of the curbside bylaw.

"It was a good news, bad news story. We've been very lucky that people have complied with the bylaw for the last five years. But like anything, it goes into a little bit of complacency," Kirk said. 

The weather is getting colder, but it's not time to relax when it comes to curbside practices. Kirk said the bears in the area have plentiful sources of food well into the fall thanks to apple orchards and vineyards, and don't have to rely on the salmon run. 

"There's food out in those interface areas for bears long after the kokanee are finished, and that can sometimes encourage bears to stay away from their dens longer," she said. "So I don't consider it a denning period here until mid-December."

For more information on how to coexist with bears, click here

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