An abundant berry crop in the forest around Rossland led to an unusually quiet year for bear activity, according to the annual WildSafe BC report.
The season also provided an abundant urban fruit crop with many apples, plums and pears that brought the bears back into town starting in September.
“There were no bears destroyed in Rossland this year (2013) and only two bears destroyed in Trail, one in May and one in September,” she said.
Last year saw the Bear Aware name changed to WildSafe BC and the program focus expanded from bears to all urban wildlife. In Rossland, this wildlife includes cougars and coyotes.
Although bear encounters were down, cougar and coyote sightings in Rossland were up from previous years, she said.
“So the new WildSafe BC educational materials were well received,” said Weider.
But the quiet year in 2013 presents more challenges for 2014, said Sharon Weider, WildSafe BC coordinator for Rossland and Trail.
A quiet bear season now means having to convince people that their attractants need to be managed for when a bear shows up, not if a bear shows up.
“During a quiet season, it is easy to believe that your attractants are not a problem,” said Weider.
The abundant fruit crop emphasized that fruit trees need to be managed every year so that a bumper crop can be handled more easily, she added.
“Historically, garbage and fruit trees are the first and second greaest attractants that create human-wildlife conflict,” said Weider. “This year was no different.”
There was increased interest in electric fencing and presentations in the schools last year, both of which had been challenges in previous years.
The Harvest Rescue team in Rossland was busy collecting and distributing fruit, culminating in a successful community fruit press day in the city that produced 240 litres of juice, said Weider.
Weider said 2013 was the second year of the West Kootenay Human-Bear Conflict working group that met to discuss bear management issues and developed creative solutions in collaboration with all levels of government.
The group provided a pool of knowledge, experience and influence. In Rossland, residents greeted installation of bear-resistant trash bins on the newly renovated Columbia and Washington avenues “with enthusiasm,” said Weider.
A lack of residential bear resistant trash bins available locally meant that Rosslanders with little or no secure space to store garbage had challenges. The working group is looking to resolve that issue, said Weider.
Other new features of the WildSafe BC program include the website and the wildlife alert reporting program (WARP) map and a Facebook site with individual community pages, including one for Rossland.
The new program—like it predecessor Bear Aware—strives to reduce human-wildlife conflict through education, innovation and cooperation.
“The goal is to keep communities safe and wild,” said Weider.
And the goal in 2014 is to engage Rosslanders in a discussion regarding changes to the Solid Waste Management bylaw.
As well, WildSafe BC will be looking to partner with the city and the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary to make bear-resistant bins available to residents at a reasonable cost.
Weider also planned to organize a fruit tree management work party for “rogue” trees, and have three more electric fences installed in Rossland.