It may still feel like winter, but reports of this spring’s first bear sightings have been rolling in to Sharon Weider of Bear Aware for two weeks and, in preparation for bear season, she wants to assemble a posse of “dumpster deputies” to keep an eye on problem garbage areas.
Weider expects problems unless Rosslanders all take the initiative to take care of their trash.
“Knowing how much trouble we had last year, a lot of the [same bears] will be back,” she said. “And a lot of them are hungry because they didn’t get a lot of food before they went to den last year.”
Although she hasn’t seen any sign of bears herself, Weider says she has people tapped into an “underground bear hotline.”
“There was an unconfirmed report of an actual sighting up behind Ferraro’s two weeks ago,” Weider said, “and I’ve heard from a few people in the last week, credible sources, that they’ve found prints in the snow around their houses.”
Weider’s message is simple: “Get ready for the bears! Garbage is always the biggest thing and, this time of year, the other one is bird feeders.”
“Bears really like sunflower seeds,” she said. “Unless you’ve got your feeders in some place you are 100 per cent sure the bears can’t get at them — and bears are pretty creative! — you should take them down.”
The problem, she explained, is that bears have an “incredible sense of smell and incredible memories.” If they find something they like early in the season, it doesn’t matter if the attractant is removed, Weider said, the bears will keep returning time and again. “Once they’re habituated, it’s a hard task to get them to move on. It only takes one time.”
Compost isn’t generally a big problem unless it smells. “If people are composting properly with a good mix of browns and greens, then it won’t smell,” Weider said. “Bears have also learned that certain shapes have compost in them. If the compost is good, it won’t smell good to a bear cruising by that checks it out.”
For those new to Rossland in the summer, bears have really cased the joint.
“Their corridors cover pretty much the whole town,” Weider said. “A lot of the hiking trails we use are the same ones the bears use. They come in from the fringes and like the back alleys.”
Although bears are typically out at night, “that’s not to say you couldn’t get bears in the daytime,” Weider said, especially bears who are used to people.
Thanks to funding from the BC Conservation Foundation and the cities of Trail and Rossland, Weider’s position as coordinator has received full funding this year.
Her Bear Aware “jurisdiction” includes both Trail and Rossland, and has done so since 2008. Weider has big plans for Bear Aware this year.
“I’m hoping to gather up a core of dumpster deputies to look at the problem areas and call me up and the person responsible, so we can clear up the problem before it’s a problem.”
If you would like to volunteer as a dumpster deputy, contact Sharon Weider at 231-2751, or email her at email@example.com.