The number of black bear sightings in Rossland has spiked in recent weeks, with a notable increase in calls made to the Conservation Office’s RAPP (Report all Poachers & Polluters) line.
Sharon Wieder of Bear Aware noted that it is unusual to have so many (5) bears hanging around town. “Usually they migrate to follow food,” Wieder says, “they must have found something they liked for them to stay around this long; likely attracted by garbage.”
There is speculation that the cold weather and its effect on the bear’s food supply may be responsible for their attraction to populated areas. According to Wieder, the huckleberries usually keep the wildlife to the mountains, but this year’s crop is already three weeks late. She adds that fruit trees in Rossland are just starting to produce, and those are always a draw for hungry bears.
Bears have a tendency to remember the locations in which they have had success finding food, and mothers pass that knowledge on to their cubs. “People don’t realize what a great memory bears have,” Wieder says, “If they’ve found an easy food source, they’ll come back year after year.” A handful of habituated bears reside in the Trail/Rossland area; these are usually older bears that have encountered people many, many times without making any negative associations.
There are a number of things people can do to reduce the likelihood of bears visiting their yards, the most important of which is to follow the new garbage by-laws that the Cities of Trail and Rossland have adopted. Garbage is to be put out no earlier than 6am on day of pick-up; trash is the major attractant to not only bears, but to coyotes, crows and dogs at large as well. Bird-feeders, with their protein-rich sunflower seeds, are also a major draw for hungry bears, as is the unharvested fruit from local trees. Wieder suggests electric fencing as a fantastic deterrent for unwanted wildlife.
Harvest Rescue, with groups running out of both Trail and Rossland, volunteer to pick the unwanted/unreachable fruit from local trees. If you find yourself with more fruit than you can handle, in Trail, call Wendy at 250-921-8992 and in Rossland, call David at 250-362-9557.
Bear Aware asks the public to report all bear sightings in and around town, by calling the 24-hour RAPP line at 877-952-7277. Reports allow the conservation officers to compile information, note patterns of movement and investigate reasons for the bear’s presence. “They will work with home-owners,” Wieder states, “To identify possible attractants and help prevent future visits.”
More information on Bear Aware and their work can be found on their website: www.rosslandbearaware.org or by calling Sharon Wieder at 250-231-2751.