Tourists arenâ€™t the West Coastâ€™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,â€ he said.
Several bear sightings have been reported in Tofino over the past two weeks and the sightings suggest two bearsâ€”one large and one smallâ€”are becoming habituated, meaning they are feeling too comfortable around humans.
â€œThere have been bears on peopleâ€™s patios, bears on peopleâ€™s decks, and thereâ€™s even been one report of a bear entering someoneâ€™s home when the door was open,â€ Platenius said.
â€œTheyâ€™ve been very bold…When a bear becomes habituated, thatâ€™s when the animal becomes more dangerous.â€
Securing attractants doesnâ€™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 BCâ€™s Conservation Officer Service each year because they have become habituated.
â€œMost of those are because of garbage that has been improperly managed and has been accessed by bears,â€ he said.
â€œThat number, not too long ago, was 1,000…weâ€™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.â€
He said bear sightings are common in the summer and the bear activity has been roughly on par with years past.
â€œI donâ€™t think thereâ€™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,â€ he said.
â€œWe can reach that goal. If a bear wanders into town and canâ€™t find any food it will continue on.â€
He said garbage must be secured inside the home and that storing waste in a shed or canopied truck doesnâ€™t cut it.
â€œHopefully we all know that by now, it should go without saying that garbage is an attractant,â€ he said.
â€œIn 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.â€
He walks through Tofino the night before garbage pickup to make sure residences and resorts arenâ€™t prematurely putting their garbage at the curb.
â€œItâ€™s against Tofino and Ucluelet bylaw to put your garbage out the night before because thatâ€™s obviously a wildlife attractant and particularly a bear attractant,â€ he said.
â€œWeâ€™re really fortunate here. For the most part, our residents are educated and concerned and informed so weâ€™re quite good in our communities.â€
He added bears must be made to feel uncomfortable in town by making loud noises to move them along.
â€œPeople who arenâ€™t educated will get closer and closer and test the animal and of course thatâ€™s the wrong thing to do. We need to keep being loud and trying to keep the bears staying away from us.â€
Through his role with WildSafeBC Platenius has given talks at Tofinoâ€™s Wickaninnish Community School and also works closely with Parks Canada and local governments to raise awareness of attractant-management through education.
â€œWildSafeBCâ€™s tagline is â€˜keeping wildlife wild and communityâ€™s safeâ€™ and we do that mostly through education,â€ he said.
â€œWeâ€™re just here as a conduit, we donâ€™t manage wildlife we just educate folks about wildlife and about how to live with wildlife safely.â€
He said WildSafeBC works closely with the West Coastâ€™s two conservation officers to keep the education train rolling.
â€œConservation officers this year have been really, really, quick to respond,â€ he said.
â€œI just canâ€™t stress enough how great they are…conservation officers are caring theyâ€™re compassionate theyâ€™re professionals and they got into their profession because they love wildlife.â€