Better beware because bears are already waking up and raking through garbage cans in Trail neighbourhoods.
Activity has been reported in the Glenmerry area, including the sighting of a large black bear, confirms Sharon Wieder from Rossland/Trail Wildsafe BC.
“The warm weather definitely woke them up in those areas where there isn’t a lot of snow,” she explained. “We had that whole week when it was pretty mild, and it’s not unusual for them to do that.”
Black bears typically maintain fat reserves throughout winter, and Wieder says they generally don’t wake up in an aggressive pursuit of food.
Unfortunately for the animals, however, they’ll follow their noses to wherever a whiff of garbage is coming from.
“Behaviour-wise, they are not necessarily any different,” she said. “But definitely, this time of year, people don’t think about them being out and about and they aren’t as careful with keeping garbage secure – which really is the big problem.”
And, an easy food source spells trouble down the road for both homeowner and bear.
“People need to realize if they leave stuff out now, and the bear gets into the habit of it, they are going to be around all summer long,” Wieder added. “They’ll just keep coming back, hoping to get more.”
Hopefully, early black bear sightings won’t portend another lethal year for the bruins.
Nine bears were destroyed in Rossland and 11 in Trail last year, compared to the previous year when none were killed in Rossland and two in Trail.
Attractants such as unsecured refuse being left outdoors or receptacles placed curbside before garbage pick up are problems that each neighbourhood can tackle.
“I encourage people to talk to the homeowner,” Wieder said. “Let them know about the bears, and the whole neighbourhood should say, ‘Can you take care of it.”
Another tactic is to contact the city’s bylaw enforcement officer.
“Garbage is not supposed to be put our before the morning of pick up,” she reiterated. “If it’s on the street the night before, let the bylaw officer know. Because if it’s not taken care of, the bear will return.”
According to Wildsafe BC’s year-end report. 2015 saw the largest increase in bear activity since 2013, and the highest number of bears destroyed since 2010.
The unusually dry season led to crop failure of natural berry crops, especially huckleberries.
Abundant urban fruit trees brought the bears back into town by mid-summer, which is about a month earlier than normal.
Fruit trees became very close to garbage as the main source of conflict last year, provoking discussion in local social media about who is responsible for bears being destroyed due to mismanaged fruit as well as unsecured garbage.