The Bear Facts: It’s the Witching Hour for People and Bears

THE BEAR FACTS: It’s the Witching Hour for People and Bears
By Debbie Wellwood

When I think of fall, bears and witches come to mind. According to legend, midnight marks the witching hour, the time when witches emerge to cast their spells, most predictably on Halloween Eve. But, at this time of year, it’s troublesome interactions between people and bears, not people and witches, that demand our attention. Decades of wildlife reports to the Conservation Officer Service tell us the probability of conflicts between people and bears is greatest in September and October in BC. Research also shows bears are driven to maximize their food intake at this time of year in order to store enough fat to survive, and for females to give birth to and nurse their cubs, during hibernation. If conditions make it challenging for bears to get enough natural foods and human sources of food are readily accessible then serious conflicts between people and bears are predictable. This year is shaping up to be one of those years. Conservation Officers have been receiving and responding to a flurry of reports associated with bears getting into human-related attractants, including garbage, fruit, and compost in the Telkwa and Smithers areas. Bears that are human-food conditioned often pay the price with their life because of the increased risk to human safety and property that they pose to people. But there is another way to get through this season with better outcomes for people and bears, and it’s within reach. Just mix up a potion of community-driven engagement and action to show, as other individuals, organizations, and communities have, that most conflicts with bears are indeed preventable.

You can help to create a safer community for people and bears.

You can help to prevent conflicts with bears by initiating or keeping up with your own efforts and by encouraging and supporting your neighbours in joining the effort to remove and secure attractants so that bears cannot gain access to them. Here’s a few tips for this season:

Remove and secure garbage and other attractants including pet food, birdseed and livestock feed. Store these in a secure area such as your basement or an enclosed garage.

Keep your barbecue clean and grease free. Store it with the cover on. Better yet, store it in a secure area.

When bears are not active in your area, manage compost to minimize its attractiveness.
o    Learn how to compost more effectively with your particular composting method so that organic materials decompose more rapidly. Effective composting     needs an appropriate balance of water, air, carbon, and nitrogen.
o    Don’t compost meat, dairy, fat, or oil products.
o    Cut or break organic materials into smaller pieces before adding it to the compost. Don’t allow large volumes of organic materials that are likely to attract bears, such as fruit, to accumulate.   

When bears are active in your area, only compost organic materials that are not attractive to bears, such as grass clippings and raked leaves. Alternatively, invest in an electric fence to keep bears out of your compost at relatively low cost per year (see point below). Some options to help you keep organic materials out of the landfill include starting and using an indoor worm compost; or giving your organic waste to friends who have a secure outdoor compost (e.g., secured with an electric fence).

Pick fruit as soon as it is ripe. If fruit falls on the ground, pick it up daily. Some fruit can be picked early and ripened indoors. Cut down abandoned or unwanted fruit trees and replace them with trees that don’t attract bears.

Remove birdfeeders when bears are active.

Use an electric fence. Electric fences offer the best protection for some types of attractants that are more challenging to secure (e.g., fruit trees, beehives, smokehouses, livestock, composts), provided they are appropriately designed, installed, monitored, and maintained for the attractant being secured.

Visit the Living with Wildlife Foundation website ( for information guides about Living with Predators, including ideas for electric fencing.

Visit the WildSafeBC website ( for information about preventing conflicts with wildlife in British Columbia. This site also hosts the Wildlife Alert Reporting Program (W.A.R.P.) where you can find information about wildlife reports in your area.

Conservation Officer Service: To report a serious wildlife conflict, call toll free 1-877-952-7277.

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