While intermittent spring snow and cool grey days may leave us wanting to linger in bed, black bears and grizzly bears are waking up from their winter slumber. Bears need to begin searching for food shortly after they leave their dens to slow their weight loss, and will move great distances in search of newly greening plant growth, carcasses melting out of the snow, or other potential food sources.
Residents living in bear country should also start the spring by assessing their yard to identify and remove any potential attractants. Bears are frequently drawn into residential neighbourhoods by the promise of an easy meal found in garbage. Recent updates to the municipal Solid Waste Collection and Disposal Bylaw will help ensure garbage is less attractive to local bears while at the same time recognizing proper BearSmart garbage management techniques already practiced by many residents. Specific provisions in the updated bylaw are as follows:
• Garbage storage between pick-up days – in a shed, garage, basement, or other secure location unless in an animal proof waste container (same as previous bylaw)
• Type of garbage can suitable for use for pick-up days – regular hardware store garbage can (same as previous bylaw)
• Timing of curbside placement – after 6:00am on pick-up day (no timing restriction in previous bylaw; but this is consistent with other BearSmart municipalities with curbside pick-up)
The most significant change is the timing restriction. This change ensures garbage is not accessible to bears overnight when they are most active.
If a resident is not able to place garbage out that morning, they will need to make alternate arrangements to remove garbage, coordinate with a friend or neighbour to place the garbage out, or use an animal proof waste container.
A limited number of bear-resistant garbage bins are currently available for purchase through Crowsnest Conservation BearSmart. Contact Elizabeth Anderson at (403) 563-0058 if you are interested.
Other potential attractants could also bring unwanted bear visitors to your yard. Steps you can take to avoid such a scenario include:
• take down bird feeders
• bring pet food inside and feed pets inside
• avoid using outdoor compost piles for organic kitchen waste. Interior vermicomposting with worms or electric indoor composters are the recommended methods.
• keep BBQs clean and burn off food residue after each use
• consider use of non-fruit-bearing trees and shrubs in spring and summer landscaping projects (a good resource is www.wildsmart.ca/recommended-plants-for-landscaping.htm)
• use bird baths and native perennials (e.g., harebell, columbine) where possible to attract hummingbirds and butterflies instead of using feeders (a good resource is www.wildaboutgardening.org)
Finally, remember to report all bear sightings to Fish and Wildlife (403-562-3289). This allows officers to identify current hot spot locations and work with both residents and bears to encourage bear use of natural habitats and food sources before the bear becomes habituated and/or a safety concern.