Spring is the best opportunity to help keep wildlife wild and people safe. As residents in wildlife habitat it is our responsibility to prevent conflict between people, bears and other wildlife. It is much easier to keep human food and other attractants away from wildlife in the first place, than it is to teach bears, cougars, deer, skunks and rodents to stay away from unnatural food, such as garbage that they have learned to enjoy. Thank you for keeping garbage in a garage, shed or indoors inaccessible to bears and other wildlife, bring in bird feeders and secure any other attractants.
The COVID-19 pandemic certainly did create challenges for my role as WildSafeBC Community Coordinator; however It turned out to be a great opportunity to get creative. Doing a wildlife safety workshop using power point on zoom was a first for me last spring! Over 400 adults attended wildlife safety and bear spray workshops and more than 500 children took part in the WildSafeBC ranger program throughout the Elk Valley and South Country. An increase in trail use was a great opportunity to set up the WSBC display at popular trail heads. You would be surprised at how many people head to trails with brand new bear spray with the zip tie still around the safety latch in the bottom of their back pack! This is not having it easily accessible and knowing how to use it.
Thank you to everyone who has helped keep wildlife wild and communities safe. We look forward to seeing you again in the spring, hopefully in person when we come out of hibernation. Have a great winter and be safe.
For more information on preventing human-wildlife conflict visit www.wildsafebc.com
Not all bears have entered their dens. Some bears are still active, especially in milder climates. Watch for tracks in the snow or mud. What are bear dens? Bears adapt to reduced food availability by sleeping away the winter in dens which are often located in the hollow trunks of trees or under windfalls. Bears will dig the cavity, often at a downward angle, with an entrance just big enough for them to squeeze through. They line the cavity with insulating materials. Black bear cubs of the year will return with their female parent to overwinter together once more. In the second year, the black bear cubs will disperse and lead mostly solitary lives until they themselves are mature enough to mate. With grizzly bears, the cubs will overwinter an additional season. This can lead to cramped quarters when the male offspring are as large, if not larger, than the female parent! Grizzly dens are often at higher elevations and may be dug straight into a hillside. Snow that covers the den helps insulate the bears and conserve energy.
When do bears hibernate?
It varies by climate and food availability but generally occurs from late October in the northern parts of the province to early December in the mildest of climates. Remember, bears hibernate as an adaptation to reduced food availability. If bears are accustomed to accessing human sources of food, they may delay hibernation.
Hibernation,Torpor or Denning?
There is some debate as to whether which term is the best, but the reality is that bears undergo an amazing process that is impossible for humans. They go months without eating, drinking, urinating or defecating. They are able to recycle their waste products and do not lose bone mass. Their respiration and heart rates slow and their body temperature goes down slightly. Despite this slower metabolism, they still lose up to 30% of their body mass, mostly fat. Because a bear does not go into deep hibernation, they can still be roused. That is why some will suggest the more appropriate term is torpor – another fascinating mechanism many animals use to conserve energy. Some animals go in and out of torpor on a daily basis.
Thank you for keeping your garbage carts indoors between collection days to prevent bears from breaking into them. Photographed below is a cart from Invermere, the same ones we have in Fernie. It was left outdoors and a bear broke into it. Excess garbage can be taken to the transfer station or the community dumpsters between collection days. Thank you to everyone who is helping keep wildlife wild.
November 16. Black bear sighting reported at Alpine Trails and in Fairy Creek area this past weekend. Thank you for keeping garbage indoors until collection day and hold off putting out bird feeders so that this bear can move on to its den.
Trick or treaters encountered a bear in the annex on Halloween night, fortunately our kids are well versed in responding to bear encounters. They stayed calm and backed away slowly.
Bears were reported accessing garbage left outdoors in West Fernie and there were reports of garbage placed on the curb the night before in Alpine Trail last week. Bears are still around, thanks for helping keep families safe and bears wild.
Black bears are still very active in much of the province. This is a critical time of year when natural foods begin to wane and bears are preparing for winter denning. They may be consuming an average of 20,000 calories per day to put on the fat they need to survive over the winter. Bears lose about 30% of their body weight over winter and do not eat, drink or defecate while denning. Ensure that bears are not learning to find unnatural foods in your community. This can lead to food-conditioning, a learned behaviour where bears associate people with food. Keep your garbage secure. The red bears in this map denote bears that were accessing garbage. Also, avoid the temptation to put your bird feeder up too soon. Check out WildSafeBC’s Wildlife Alert Reporting Program to sign up for free alerts in your community: https://wildsafebc.com/programs/what-is-warp/
A moose calf has been reported running around the lookout off the Fording Highway in Elkford. Motorists, thank you for slowing down and avoiding collisons with this moose calf. For moire information on moose safety visit https://wildsafebc.com/species/moose/
October 15. Bears reported getting into garbage left outside on 4th avenue, bear sightings reported on Piedmont Drive and a grizzly bear was seen crossing highway 3 by the Stanford Inn headed toward the Fernie Fox Hotel.
Be prepared and expect to encounter wildlife anytime. Have fun and be safe.