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How to save a bear's life

Extra caution advised over next three weeks
September 14, 2016 9:48 A.M.

Bear reports around the city are sure to increase over the next two to three weeks, so property owners should be taking precautions, says WildSafe B.C.’s provincial co-ordinator.

Picking up tree fruits and securing waste in keeping with the City’s bear bylaw will reduce interactions and keep bears alive.

Activity has been quieter around the City this summer, probably due to an abundance of natural food, said Frank Ritcey.

“It’s looking pretty good,” Ritcey said. “We’re about halfway provincially (through the height of bear season). We’re less than we were last year at this time and the same in Kamloops, but we’re up over the 2014 numbers this year.”

There has been a bit of an uptick in bear reports within the last week in Kamloops — sightings have been reported in Westsyde, Juniper Ridge and Rayleigh — but that’s not unexpected at this time of year, he added. Historically, bear reports peak in Kamloops from late August through September.

“Probably for the next three weeks we’re going to see more bear activity than we’ve seen in the summer. People need to be extra careful at least for the next three weeks.”

WildSafeBC, a program funded by the B.C. Conservation Foundation, is taking a new approach to public education this weekend, Sept. 17-18. B.C. Goes Wild invites people to engage in outdoor activities.

“The weekend is an initiative to encourage people to get out and safely enjoy the wild spaces and to watch wildlife in their natural habitat," Ritcey said. “Too often we see bear, deer, cougars, and other wildlife in urban settings. This weekend is to highlight the fact that it is safer for us and for the animals if they remain in the wilds and they don’t get attracted into our communities.”

Three province-wide activities are planned: a photo-contest, a “Wildlife Counts” activity, and a colouring contest designed for adults but open to all ages. Details can be found on the WildSafeBC website (wildsafebc.com). Prizes include a spotting scope, binoculars, and a camera with a long zoom – all tools that allow you to watch wildlife safely at a distance.

As well, communities have a number of coordinator-led activities happening in their area. Check out wildsafebc.comfor a complete list. At Kenna Cartwright Park, Dana Eye will lead a wildlife scavenger hunt Saturday, 1-3 p.m. The family event is suitable for kids age six and older. Dogs should be left at home.

The public is invited to share "wild experiences" on Facebook page (facebook.com/Wildsafebc/) or tag them  with #bcgoeswildweekend on Instagram and twitter.

Unfortunately, human behavior continues to increase the risk of wildlife conflicts.

“A lot of the safety message is going unheeded, particularly where bears are involved,” Ritcey said.

He pointed to research by bear expert Stephen Hererro that indicates half of all human-bear conflicts involve dogs.

“It increases the chances of there being a conflict, especially when the dog is off-leash.”

When checking trail cams around the city in areas that bears frequent, he leaves his dog at home for safety reasons.

“In some instances, dogs stop an attack, but a lot of times it’s the dog that causes the attack in the first place.”

He recommends people keep bear spray handy. They should familiarize themselves with using bear spray, keep it within reach and check to be sure it hasn’t reached the expiry date.

Late August sow with cubs near Kamlooops, from WildSafeBC on Vimeo.

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