Skip to content

Unnatural food addiction puts three bears in peril around Tofino-Ucluelet

“Once they become food conditioned, it tends to follow a fairly predictable pattern”
Leanndra Botting captured this shot of a bear trying to break into a latched, bear-resistant bin in Ucluelet last week. (Leanndra Botting photo)

The West Coast’s summer season is off to an ominous start for local black bears as three of them have already become addicted to unnatural food sources.

“Compared to this time last year, there’s fewer bears active in our West Coast communities, but unfortunately the ones that are in the communities right now are really fully food conditioned,” WildSafeBC Pacific Rim coordinator Bob Hansen told the Westerly News. “They’re following their noses to all kinds of unsecured, unnatural food sources in the communities.”

Eight bears were killed in the region last year due to food-conditioning and while no deaths have been reported so far this season, one bear in Ucluelet, one bear in Hitacu and one bear in Tofino are showing behaviours that typically put the animals on death row.

“Once they become food conditioned, it tends to follow a fairly predictable pattern where there’s more potential for property damage and more potential for what we refer to as defensive-aggressive behaviour…It’s really, really difficult to turn that around,” he said.

“If someone approaches a bear to try to chase it away from their cart, then instead of getting a response where the bear runs away, it may actually stand its ground and try to push you away…The situations get more intense as time goes on.”

He encourages all residents to check out WildSafeBCPacific Rim’s facebook page at and the ACRD’s site for tips on how to properly anchor and secure their carts.

“There’s just a ton of examples, information and very clear instructions. By following those steps, you can really minimize the risk of having a bear show up in your yard or, if they do, they’ll just be passing quickly through because there’s really nothing for them,” he said. “The big message is that we have to prevent them from getting food conditioned. That’s the only true solution…Those animals are really at risk once they become food conditioned and the community is as well.”

He added all West Coast communities face challenges in storing their attractants properly.

“Things have improved over the last several years, but as these bears are showing us, we still have a ways to go,” he said.

Sightings over the past week suggest bears are getting into unlatched and unsecured commercial garbage bins as well as residential garbage and compost carts.

New carts were recently distributed across the West Coast by the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District as part of the new residential compost roll-out and while those carts are designed to be bear proof, they only work when used properly, including being clipped shut and anchored in place.

“If they’re clipped and anchored, they’ll knock them over, they’ll make a bunch of noise, but then they’re going to move on. If they aren’t anchored, or aren’t clipped, that’s where things go sideways,” Hansen said, adding bears will drag unanchored carts into the woods to demolish.

“If they can get the carts to someplace that they can really work on the carts for an extended amount of time, we’ve had two instances now where they were able to break into them…If they’re properly anchored, then they’ll promptly give up.”

He added that carts that are not clipped shut make easy buffets for bears.

“Then it’s really easy for the bear, it just has to pop the lid,” he said. “We’ve seen a few cases where people have not been able to clip the lids because the carts are overflowing.

Local bylaws mandate that garbage and compost carts may only be put curbside on the morning of pickup and Hansen said they should be secured in a garage or home until then.

“We don’t recommend putting them in external sheds because over the last two years, we’ve had 80 structures accessed by bears and in almost every case it was because there was garbage carts, compost or dog or livestock food stored in those sheds,” he said. “We know they can break into sheds if they smell something good on the other side.”

He added that anyone who spots a bear in town should immediately report their sighting to the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277 and he urges residents to check around their home for any possible attractants.

“If the bear’s in the backyard and it’s sticking around for any amount of time, then have a close look. Is there something that maybe you’ve missed? Maybe there’s dog food, or maybe you have a bird feeder. Bird feeders should be taken down during bear season. It’s just way too many calories and super attractive to bears,” he said. “If it’s sticking around in the backyard, there’s probably something it smells.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

READ MORE: Tofino man found guilty of killing bear cub and sow as judge rejects self-defence claim

READ MORE: Bears broke into 35 vehicles in Tofino-Ucluelet this year

READ MORE: Bear destroys vehicle in Ucluelet after getting trapped inside

Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
Read more