Garbage is luring bears into Tofino

Tourists aren’t the West Coast’s only summertime visitors.

The bears are back in town and WildSafeBC coordinator John Platenius is reminding West Coasters to keep their communities safe by keeping their attractants secure.

 â€œThis time of year in Tofino and Ucluelet we need to be very, very, careful with our garbage and managing our attractants,” he said.

Several bear sightings have been reported in Tofino over the past two weeks and the sightings suggest two bears—one large and one small—are becoming habituated, meaning they are feeling too comfortable around humans.

 â€œThere have been bears on people’s patios, bears on people’s decks, and there’s even been one report of a bear entering someone’s home when the door was open,” Platenius said.

“They’ve been very bold…When a bear becomes habituated, that’s when the animal becomes more dangerous.”

Securing attractants doesn’t just help keep communities safe from bears, it keeps bears safe as well, according to Platenius who said about 500 bears are destroyed by BC’s Conservation Officer Service each year because they have become habituated.

“Most of those are because of garbage that has been improperly managed and has been accessed by bears,” he said.

“That number, not too long ago, was 1,000…we’ve able to reduce that number in British Columbia to 500 which is fantastic and I really believe that, through education and through programs like WildSafeBC and through people getting better at remembering to manage their garbage properly, we can bring that number down even more.”

He said bear sightings are common in the summer and the bear activity has been roughly on par with years past.

“I don’t think there’s any alarm bells really. It is quite common in Tofino and Ucluelet to have a food conditioned bear or a habituated bear but of course the goal is to have none,” he said.

“We can reach that goal. If a bear wanders into town and can’t find any food it will continue on.”

He said garbage must be secured inside the home and that storing waste in a shed or canopied truck doesn’t cut it.

 â€œHopefully we all know that by now, it should go without saying that garbage is an attractant,” he said.

“In the past people have stored garbage in sheds that seem secure because they have a closed door….bears will take the door off the shed. Really the best thing to do is to keep the garbage secure inside the house.”

He walks through Tofino the night before garbage pickup to make sure residences and resorts aren’t prematurely putting their garbage at the curb.

“It’s against Tofino and Ucluelet bylaw to put your garbage out the night before because that’s obviously a wildlife attractant and particularly a bear attractant,” he said.

 â€œWe’re really fortunate here. For the most part, our residents are educated and concerned and informed so we’re quite good in our communities.”

He added bears must be made to feel uncomfortable in town by making loud noises to move them along.

 â€œPeople who aren’t educated will get closer and closer and test the animal and of course that’s the wrong thing to do. We need to keep being loud and trying to keep the bears staying away from us.”

Through his role with WildSafeBC Platenius has given talks at Tofino’s Wickaninnish Community School and also works closely with Parks Canada and local governments to raise awareness of attractant-management through education.

“WildSafeBC’s tagline is ‘keeping wildlife wild and community’s safe’ and we do that mostly through education,” he said.

“We’re just here as a conduit, we don’t manage wildlife we just educate folks about wildlife and about how to live with wildlife safely.”

He said WildSafeBC works closely with the West Coast’s two conservation officers to keep the education train rolling.

“Conservation officers this year have been really, really, quick to respond,” he said. 

“I just can’t stress enough how great they are…conservation officers are caring they’re compassionate they’re professionals and they got into their profession because they love wildlife.”

 

Andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca