Wild Wise Sooke is urging the public to be bear aware. (Photo by Brian Rundle)

Wild Wise Sooke is urging the public to be bear aware. (Photo by Brian Rundle)

Wild Wise Sooke reminds public to be aware of bears

Residents asked to be mindful of their garbage habits, not to draw in wildlife

Sleepy bears are waking up from long winter naps, and Wild Wise Sooke is urging the residents to be aware of our furry neighbours.

Communities in Greater Victoria are asked to be particularly mindful of their garbage disposal habits, as this is one of the most prominent bear attractants.

Sam Webb, president of Wild Wise Sooke, said there have been about seven reports of bear sightings in the Sooke and West Shore regions so far this year, but she is concerned because many of the reports have pertained to bears snooping for a garbage snack.

“That is worrying. This time of year, bears are just starting to wake up, and it usually takes them a while to discover garbage,” said Webb. “But some have woken up and went straight to neighbourhoods where they have found it in the past.”

Webb said the best ways residents can prevent bears from getting into their garbage, is to store their trash in a shed or garage until the morning of pick-up, or better yet, have “bear resistant” dumpsters. These can be purchased through Alpine.

“Doing these precautionary things is about protecting the animals, and so that they don’t become a threat to the community,” said Webb. “If you run into a bear in the wild, its behaviour might be a lot different than one who is habituated. A bear might be a lot more defensive over their garbage snack.”

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Bird feeders tend to draw bears into people’s yards, so Webb recommends not leaving them out during bear season. She added that cleaning your barbecue regularly, and keeping pets on leashes or inside are also precautions to avoid unpleasant interactions with bears.

“If you are out hiking, keep your pets on a leash. If you have small children, keep them close to you,” said Webb. “We also recommend hiking in a group or as a pair, so you are less likely to surprise a bear. If you are solo hiking, talking to yourself out loud is recommended so wildlife can hear you coming.”

Webb reminds hikers to always be prepared and carry bear spray, or to put ‘googly eyes’ on the back of your hat or helmet if you are out alone, so if a predator is following behind, it will less likely mistake you for prey.

So far this year, there has not been any negative interactions with wildlife, and Wild Wise volunteers want to keep it that way. They are offering educational resources through the organization’s Facebook page.

“Wildlife always pays the price for our bad judgment. We want to prevent anything from happening in the first place and keep not only the community safe, but animals as well,” said Webb. “People seem to be more aware of the wildlife here, and of their own behaviour. We hope to keep that going, and expand our reach to more people.”

Wild Wise Sooke is looking for volunteers in Langford. For more information on bear awareness or to volunteer, please visit wildwisesooke.com.

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