by Dave Preston
Peachland can lay claim to a dubious sort of fame this year: The Okanagan town where the most bears have been shot in 2012.
Two adult bears were shot and killed in the Ponderosa area Wednesday, confirmed Conservation Officer Bob Hamilton. That brings the number of bears shot in Peachland this spring to a total of six.
A female bear was caught in a trap near the Ponderosa Golf Course early Wednesday and destroyed and an adult bear, believed to be its partner, was shot a short time later.
Just a few weeks ago, a bear was killed in the Bluewaters area, north of 13th Street and between Hwy. 97 and Okanagan Lake.
A female bear that had been injured by a car earlier this year and its two cubs were also destroyed by conservation officers.
“Peachland has had a very busy few months, especially in the past few weeks,” said Hamilton.
The conservation officer, who works out of Penticton, said it is not unusual for a town to have a cluster of bear incidents.
In the Ponderosa incident Wednesday, Hamilton said, “The bears were particularly assertive.”
One of the bears climbed onto a balcony of a home and was there for quite some time, said Hamilton.
“It appeared to be trying to get into the residence,” he said.
That bear went from the first location to another home about a block away, where it repeated the process, trying to gain access through some patio doors.
“That was too close for comfort,” said Hamilton.
A trap was set in the Ponderosa area Tuesday night. Conservation officers found a female bear in the trap Wednesday morning. A male bear was found nearby and it too was shot.
The bear killed in the Bluewaters area had been consistently hanging around, according to Hamilton. He noted the bear was deep into Peachland.
As for the mother bear and cubs, Hamilton said conservation officers made the decision to destroy all three.
“She had an issue with her rear end,” said Hamilton, who believes the bear was likely the victim of an impact with a motor vehicle.
Once the mother was put down, the cubs could not be taken care of and the decision was made to put them down as well.
Hamilton said he knows people will wonder why the cubs were not relocated to a bear sanctuary but he said the practice of humans raising bears is very controversial.
“There’s only two places in the province where cubs can be taken,” said Hamilton, adding only a few bears are sent to those places because they can only handle so many at a time.
“They are very controversial,” said Hamilton. “Not by a long shot is it a proven wildlife strategy for humans to raise bears.”
As for the bear incidents in Peachland, Hamilton said it is difficult to pin the cause of the problem down but, “There is an awful lot we can do to prevent it.”
“Bears are very simple animals,” said Hamilton. “They follow their noses.”
“To them, garbage is gourmet food,” Hamilton said. “A bear’s nose is five times more powerful than a dog.”
Hamilton said bears are attracted to garbage and even putting garbage in containers will not stop a bear from the attraction of garbage odour.
“The containers need to be bear proof,” said Hamilton.
Naramata passed a bylaw that requires garbage to be put out no sooner than 5 a.m. on collection days or it must be secured in a bear proof container, according to Hamilton. In addition, that community conducted an education program, with a worker travelling through the community teaching residents how to bear proof their properties.
“We haven’t put down a bear in Naramata for some time,” said Hamilton. He said there are still bears in Naramata, but they aren’t causing problems.
Bears are creatures of habit and if there’s no pay off, like a free meal, there’s no reason for them to come back, Hamilton said.
“We can teach them it’s better to be back in the woods,” he said.
“A big drawing card for bears is bird feed,” said Hamilton.
Putting out bird feed is a nice thing to do for birds in the winter, but there is no reason to put it out in the summer, according to Hamilton.
“Bears particularly like bird feed,” said Hamilton.
Another problem is people feeding pets outside. Cat or dog food in bowls or even improperly stored bags of pet food will attract bears, according to Hamilton.
Mayor Keith Fielding said he heard the news about the six bears being shot and said, “It’s very sad to hear of that.”
“I think we have to do a much better job to remind people to not put garbage out over night,” said Fielding.
The mayor said Peachland has a bylaw that the town can enforce, which requires residents to put their garbage out no sooner than the morning of collection.
“We have to step up our efforts,” said Fielding. “Fortunately no one has been injured but that is a concern as well.”
Fielding said he will be looking into a communications program to help educate Peachland residents on steps to take to limit the attraction of bears and into stepping up enforcement of the town’s bylaw on setting out garbage.