Did You Know . . . When bears wake up from winter hibernation they immediately seek easy food sources, like sticky backyard barbecues, bird feeders and unsecured household trash.

Please don’t feed the bears

Spring is in the air and it is time once again to think about backyards, barbeques and bears. If you don’t want bears in your backyard, then Alberta Fish and Wildlife officers have a few suggestions on what to do and not to do with your outdoor barbeques, your bird feeders and your household trash.

According to local officer Aaron Archibald, the bottom line with bears is, simply, do not entice them with interesting and irresistible aromas.

“In the spring, bears are hungry and they’re looking for easy food sources,” says Aaron. “Easy food sources can include bird seed, hummingbird feeders, household garbage and inadequately cleaned barbeques.”

Depending on availability, normal food sources for bears may include berries, roots, grubs and carrion or animal carcasses. However, bears are drawn to anything that smells “good” to them.

“They are attracted to anything sweet,” says Aaron. “Barbeques make a very good scent, especially if they are not cleaned well enough. After use, barbeques should be burned off well. Try not to leave any sticky, smelly stuff.”

Household garbage can often contain scraps and odours attractive to bears and Aaron recommends proper handling of trash to help avoid attracting the bear’s interest.

“The temptation of garbage as an easy food source could turn a good bear into a bad bear, so only put garbage out on the morning of pick-up,” he advises. “If you do put it outside, lock it up securely in a shed or a box.”

It is not uncommon for bears to pass through yards in search of food. A “good” bear is one who may enter a yard, but upon finding no food source, keeps on going. On the other hand, if a bear finds household garbage to dig into or a tasty barbecue to chew on it may stick around looking for more to eat, or it may keep returning to that yard in search of more.

“We try to avoid that,” says Aaron. “If it is a ruined bear, there is only one option: euthanize the bear.”

Bird feeders could develop into a problem as well.

“I call them ‘bear feeders’,” quips Aaron. “Bears don’t need the seeds; it should be the flowers that they eat. We advise not to put bird feeders out in the spring or the fall.”

Fruit trees could also attract bears. Fruit that has fallen on the ground should be cleaned up immediately. Later in the season, once the fruit ripens on the tree, it should be picked before creating a bear problem.

Residents who discover a bear in their yard should stay indoors where they are safe and can try scaring the bear away by banging pots and pans. “You don’t want the bear to feel welcome,” says Aaron. If the situation warrants it, Fish and Wildlife officers can be called in to assist.

Bear encounters on the trail

Aaron notes that it’s not just the bears that are coming out of hibernation, but outdoor enthusiasts are also getting more active as the weather improves.

“In the spring, there are more people hiking and enjoying the outdoors,” he says. “It is best to go in groups and make lots of noise to scare any bears off. They want to be around us less than we want to be around them.”

If a bear is encountered on a trail or in the wild, the person should remain calm and back off slowly. A bear’s natural instinct is to chase something that is running away.

“If the bear stalks towards you, make yourself look bigger by lifting your coat or raising a stick,” advises Aaron. “Talk to the bear slowly saying something like ‘Whoa, bear, whoa, bear. I’m backing off.’ Don’t yell or startle the bear.”

It is also advisable to keep dogs on a leash.

Brochures on bear safety can be picked up at the Fish and Wildlife office in the Provincial Building in Athabasca, telephone 780-675-2419. Additional information is available online at Government of Alberta, Alberta BearSmart.

Bear concerns can be reported anytime to 1-800-642-3800.

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