By David F. Rooney
With a couple of months still to go before local bears are hibernating, eight animals have so far been destroyed in town because hunger drove them to raid human garbage cans.
“Seven of the eight animals were getting into garbage — two in Columbia Park and five in Southside,” says Bear Aware Coordinator Janette Vickers. “The eighth animal was killed in July after it killed a family pet.”
The deaths — up from last year’s six-animal death toll — are just the tip of the ursine problem in Revelstoke. So far this year there have been 242 sightings reported to the Conservation Officer Service or to Bear Aware. That’s more than double the 111 in-town sightings reported last year, when bears were still seen as late as December 12, Vickers said.
“What we’re seeing is a consequence of the failure of the berry crops at higher elevations,” she said in an interview. “Right now is when they are really getting ready for winter.”
And that imperative is driving the animals to raid the easiest sources of food in the area — human garbage that people are still putting out the night before their neighbourhood garbage pickup. They are also find and eating wind-fallen fruit in people’s yards. Vickers and a cadre of Bear Aware volunteers have so far collected 630 pounds of fruit that they have donated to the Food Bank, but there’s still plenty more that homeowners should collect and give to the Food Bank.
Halting the practice of putting out garbage the night before it’s picked up and getting rid of wind-fallen fruit is hugely important.
“We have a real bear problem in Revelstoke,” Vickers said, adding that while no one has so far been charged by a bear one could occur at any time. “People get complacent when nothing happens… but bears will defend their food sources.
“This is as much a public safety issue as it is one of mortality. We don’t want bears around our schools or our backyards where our children play.”