JILL LAVIOLETTE PHOTO Harbour View Apartment area before a cleanup was done.

Planet Matters: Bears are not the problem, humans are

You can’t expect enough conservation officers to solve the problems we cause

Each year the bear problem gets a bit worse on Vancouver Island.

Food sources are getting harder for these animals to find. Land is being developed or cut back, pushing bears out of their habitats. And all around many remote towns, the bushes have 30 years worth of trash dragged into them.

In the North Island at least, deer carcases are sprinkled around the outskirts of town. This goes to show just how lazy humans are when it comes to being responsible with their waste and attractants.

The problem goes like this: humans leave their trash or attractants out, bear is attracted, becomes habituated, then ultimately shot. Sometimes relocated – but with this reactive system we have, its usually too late and the bear is put down.

Many years ago there was more resources and budgets for wildlife management. Those days are gone. There are more people living in city centres now than there are in the remote wilderness-surrounded towns of B.C.

Infrastructure, policing, schools, and more — cities are gobbling up all of the province’s resources and the small remote towns are suffering. They have lower populations so they do not get the funding that big cities get.

There are one or two conservation officers for the entire North Island. They are overworked and their workload doubles or triples each year.

Bears and cougar sightings and interactions have been dramatically increasing. Bear cubs are having an easier time surviving with the warmer winters. The next few years, I expect the bear populations to explode.

So, here we have an awful situation. Next to no resources available, many cubs being born and surviving, and more and more ignorant humans creating more trash than ever before.

This is a recipe for disaster. And is quickly becoming one.

Bears are dying because of the humans. We have made trash such so readily available, and plantiful: just as their natural food sources are drying up – why bother hunting for food when trash is so easy to come by?

We are going to have more bear related incidents, more run ins, more aggressive, hungry bears if we don’t act now.

The saddest part of this problem – this is preventable. We have people leaving crab and fish guts inside a blue bin right beside a bear path and lair.

We have people leaving bags of dirty diapers outside their homes as they are ‘too stinky’ to keep inside.

Thirty years worth of trash laying in the bush, humans who just do not care and feel entitled to treat the Earth like a garbage can, people who will leave their trash beside the blue bin because they can’t fit it in, people leaving their trash beside the big green bear-proof bins because their trash bag wouldn’t fit inside bear proof hatch, people dumping on backroads or mountain tops: thhe list goes on and on.

Notice how much of these are human caused issues. This is what has to change. We need to step up our game.

We can’t keep shooting or trying to relocate problem bears. That’s a Band-aid solution to a much bigger problem. This is our fault, not theirs.

How you can help:

  • Freeze all leftovers that will stink up your trash bag.
  • Have a five gallon bucket or ice cream bucket in your freezer.
  • Put all scraps in there until garbage day.
  • Double bag stinky garbage for storage in your carport, shed, laundry room.
  • Wash out as many containers and food particles from recyclable plastics and other single use items.
  • Recycle. If we use something once and it stays on our planet for 400 years if it doesn’t get recycled.

We have to do better.

Make a trip to the dump weekly if you have excess trash. We can spend tons of money on junk, new clothes, plastic one use items, but we can’t make sure it all gets disposed of or recycled properly and accordingly?

Get fruit off of fruit trees as soon as possible. If you live on a greenbelt surrounding a town you have to be extra vigilant.

If you have a neighbor who repeatedly leaves their trash out – please go have a kind chat with them. Try to leave your emotions out of it and just relay facts. Educate, do not belittle your neighbour if they leave their trash out. Belittling does nothing. Educating breaks the cycle.

If they are rude or continue to leave out trash – please report to the district and conservation office.

We can’t complain about the bears if we aren’t doing all that we can and right now we are failing them.

What are you doing to be a part of the solution?

Jill Laviolette recently won a Local HeroAward for Environmental Leadership, volunteers for The Hub: North Island and Van Isle Coastal and Backroading Awareness. You can find them on Facebook or www.vanislecoastalandbackroadingawareness.ca


JILL LAVIOLETTE PHOTO Harbour View Apartment area after a cleanup was done.

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