As bears are waking up and making their way out of their winter dens, the head of the North Shore Black Bear society is hoping to see more “responsible coexistence” in 2021.
Executive director Luci Cadman said the pandemic put more people on the trails last year, revealing some troubling habits.
“Bears are peaceful, calm, polite, predictable animals. Humans, not so much. We’re very unpredictable around wildlife,” she said.
When you’re on the trail, make a point of being both slower and louder, giving bears ample opportunity to lumber away, Cadman said, stressing that when you do an encounter a bear, give them their space. Certainly, do not pursue a bear for the sake of getting a photo, she added.
“We saw a lot of that last year - people cornering bears, tracking bears for photo opportunities, lots of people chasing those chasing bears,” she said.
That only puts the bears at more risk of being pushed closer to residential areas, roads or into the territory of a more aggressive bear, Cadman said.
Dogs should be kept leashed, Cadman said, as they have a tendency to instigate and exacerbate conflicts.
When a bear shows up in a residential yard, it’s important to get to a safe place and then calmly and firmly let them know they have to move on before they’ve been rewarded with any food, Cadman said.
“We're asking people to set boundaries,” she said. “Let them know it's not safe for them to be on your property they’re not welcome. They understand from our tone when they're not welcome. And it's really important that we're persistent and consistent with that message - there's no food and don't get comfortable here,” she said.
As of December last year, the District of North Vancouver began taking a no-tolerance approach to people who bring their garbage carts out before 5:30 a.m. Since then, they’ve issued 205 $100-tickets for first-time offenders and seven $500-tickets for subsequent offences.
Cadman said she has certainly seen a decrease in the number of emails she receives reporting attractant violators in need of more targeted education.
There were five North Shore bears shot by conservation officers after becoming habituated to human food in 2020. Another one was euthanized after becoming injured while trying to feed a cub from a soccer net. And three were killed on the roads after being struck by drivers.
Cadman said the Black Bear Society will step in and provide education wherever it is needed.