If You Encounter a Bear
Report aggressive or threatening bears: 1 877 952-7277 (RAPP)
Do not feed bears. It's against the law to feed dangerous wildlife.
Remain calm. Do not run or climb a tree. Slowly back away, talking to the bear in a quiet, monotone voice. Do not scream, turn your back on the bear, kneel down or make direct eye contact.
Keep away from the bear. Do not try to get closer to it. If the bear gets too close, use pepper spray (within 7 metres) or something else to threaten or distract it.
Stay together. If you are with others, act as a group. Keep children close – pick up and carry small children.
Go indoors. Bring pets indoors if possible.
Watch the bear until it leaves. Make sure the bear has a clear escape route. After the bear is gone and it's safe, make sure there is nothing in the area that will attract bears back again.
Find out more about bear behavior and how to respond if you see one:
Managing Bear Conflicts
Choose one of the following topics to learn more about managing bear behaviours:
Identify if the bear conflict is a result of:
- Poor husbandry practices
- No fencing or inadequate fencing of crops
- Proximity of crops/orchards to naturally occurring food sources such as wild berry bushes
- Surrounding heavy bush and trees can act as a “comfort zone” for bears to use as cover
- Consider removing or thinning the bush
Electrical fencing can be a highly effective deterrent to bears if it is deployed properly. Within municipal neighbourhoods, conflicts can be compounded when multiple residential properties are attracting bears. Be proactive in the neighbourhood to help address the conflicts. Identify if there are any other attractants that could be compounding the conflict such as compost bins or garbage.
The use of scare devices such as motion lights or leashed dogs can be effective short-term solutions. Bear bangers are also an option, but they aren’t recommended for use in residential areas or in other locations with close proximity to people/residential property.
Barbeques are a strong bear attractant due the smells and cooked food sometimes left behind.
- Barbeques and drip pans should be cleaned after each use since grease and fat are a high calorie food source for bears
- Barbeques should be kept locked inside a bear-proof shed after they have been cleaned
- Covering a cleaned barbeque will further help to reduce the transmission of food odour
- A barbeque stored within a shed that has an un-cleaned grill or drip pan will still attract bears and could possibly lead to property damage
Beehives are a high calorie and high protein food source for bears. Bears will identify beehives as food - it is important that people who are operating beehives take protective measures.
- Protect hives with electric fencing
- Placing beehives on platforms with an overhang of more than two metres can also be an effective deterrent
- Wiring beehives together with metal strapping can also help prevent damage to beehives
- Don’t set up beehives during early springtime when other sources of food for bears are not available or may be scarce
Bears consider berries to be a natural food source. People with berry bushes, whether they are naturally occurring or planted, can expect bears to be attracted to their berry patches.
Bears are especially attracted to ripened berries. Ripe berries are sweeter tasting and have a high caloric value. You can protect yourself in the following ways:
- Pick the berries as they ripen, thus minimizing the attractant
- Put up electrical fencing to protect berry bushes
- As a final option, remove the berry bushes. If the attractant is removed, this will remove the bear conflict
Birdseed or suet filled bird feeders will attract bears through the odours they emit. Birdseed and suet are high protein food source for bears. Use bird feeders only in the winter when bears are hibernating and natural bird food is limited. If you feed birds in bear season, consider the following steps to minimize your contribution to human-bear conflicts:
- Take bird feeders in at night
- Keep the ground underneath the feeders clean and free of bird seed
- Fill your feeders regularly with just a small amount of feed, which will decrease the reward a bear would receive if it does get to your feeder.
- Remove any meat, meat by-products, fish, and cooked fruit and vegetables from compost
- Sprinkle lime in compost. The lime will aid the composting process and help to reduce the odour
- Covering the compost with a light cover of dirt or soil or a heavy cover of grass clippings will also assist with odours
- If the conflict persists the compost bin may have to be removed
The use of scare products and electric fencing are options for dealing with crop damage being caused by bears.
- If there is a lawful hunting season open at the time and in the location that the crop damage is taking place; there is the option of contacting the local rod and gun club to arrange for hunters to come and harvest the conflict bears.
- The Wildlife Act doesn't authorize the owner of agricultural property to destroy wildlife that is damaging or eating crops
Fencing out predators over large areas can be very difficult, most predators will easily cross over or under conventional livestock fences. A predator's response to a fence will be influenced by a number of factors including its experience with fences and its motivation for crossing the fence.
Some predators learn to dig deeper or climb higher to defeat a fence. Recent improvements in equipment and design have made fencing more effective and economical. There are two categories of fencing, electric and non-electric fencing.
- New energizers, chargers and fence designs have recently revolutionized electric fencing in North America
- Many different designs including portable electric fences are available
- Designs incorporate charged and alternately charged wire, with trip wires and ground wires
- The latest designs have every wire charged
- The USDA found in an experiment that a 13-strand electric fence provides complete protection to sheep from coyote predation
- Maintenance to keep electrical fencing functional can be significant. Wire tension must be maintained; vegetation under the fence must be removed to prevent grounding and damage from feeding livestock and wildlife, and the charger must be checked to ensure proper operation
- Electric fences can sometimes trap predators inside the fence
- Openings in the mesh should be less than 6 inches high and 4 inches wide
- High tensile barbed wire at ground level or a buried wire apron will discourage predators from digging under fences
- Fences should be at least 5 1/2 feet high to hinder animals jumping over them
- Preventing predators from climbing over top of the fence can be prevented by adding a single electrified wire at the top of the fence or by installing overhanging wire
Fencing alone wouldn't necessarily eliminate predator conflicts, but when used in combination with sound husbandry practices it can be highly effective.
- Pick fruit as it ripens since ripe fruit has a high caloric value and is a highly sought after food source by bears
- Fruit can also be picked before it ripens and the un-ripened fruit can then be stored indoors while it ripens
- Let friends or neighbours pick your fruit if you are not going to use it
- Determine if the fruit trees are necessary or if they are still wanted, if they aren’t, have the trees cut down
- Install electric fencing to protect the fruit trees
- Check for a local WildSafeBC contact - there may be a local fruit sharing program in place in the community
- Keep garbage inside until the morning of garbage collection
- Odorous garbage can be kept inside a plastic bag and frozen until garbage day
- Garbage can also be kept in the basement or inside the garage or shed if it is bear proof
- Use airtight garbage containers
- Businesses/property owners can install bear-proof garbage bins
- Businesses can also construct a bear proof fence/storage area to house garbage until collection time
- Neighbourhood garbage conflicts can be addressed through residents being proactive in their neighbourhood
- Encourage residents to talk to the neighbour(s) causing bear conflict and help educate them about bear attractants
- Garbage should not be left in the back of vehicles or under canopies; they aren’t bear proof and will likely get damaged
The only effective way to exclude bears from landfills is by installing electric fencing
Bears that are harassing or menacing domestic animals (livestock) or birds can be hunted on a person's property under Section 26(2) of the Wildlife Act. Under Section 2 (Property in Wildlife) - section 2(4) states that a person who by accident or for protection of life or property kills wildlife, that wildlife remains the property of the government.
- Persons must report the killing or wounding of any wildlife. Failing to report the killing or wounding of any wildlife whether it is for protection of life or property is an offence under section 75 of the Wildlife Act
- Persons must comply with all Municipal, Provincial and Federal laws surrounding the use and discharge of firearms or the setting of traps
- Persons are liable for any wildlife that is wounded or injured as a result of them exercising their rights under section 26(2) and that they are legally responsible for any misuse of firearms
- If there is a hunting season open for bear at the time and in the location of the occurrence, hunters from the local Rod and Gun Club may be able to assist
- Scare devices may also be an option to try and help protect livestock against bear attacks
- Local feed stores may carry these products
- Livestock and poultry should be kept locked inside a barn or coop at night if a bear is in the area
- If livestock is killed or injured call the COS Call Centre at1-877-952-7277 (RAPP)
Livestock management and predator management can effectively reduce livestock losses. Listed below are husbandry techniques that can help reduce predation:
- Livestock confinement (not allowing livestock out onto a pasture) may prevent predation - this however is not a feasible option for most farmers. Penning livestock at night is another option to help reduce predation.
- Adding lighting to a pen or corral will also help to deter predators - livestock will quickly adapt to the lighting.
- Spring livestock birthing coincides with predator birthing and can result in high levels of predation in the spring and earlier summer because predators are trying to feed their young.
- Having livestock born inside barns or sheds will usually prevent predation and will also reduce newborn deaths that result from inclement weather.
- Altering livestock birthing times until later in the spring or summer can reduce predation.
- Farmers and ranchers should avoid using pastures that have had a history of predation.
- Pastures that are closer to buildings and human activity can be safer for young livestock.
- Pastures with rough terrain or with dense vegetation bordering them offer cover for predators.
- Farmers and ranchers should be checking on the status and condition of their livestock regularly in order to ensure that predator conflicts are identified quickly.
- Regularly counting livestock is important in large pastures or areas with heavy cover where dead livestock could remain unnoticed. It is not unusual for livestock producers that don't regularly count their herd to suffer substantial losses before they identify that they have a predator conflict.
- Sick, injured or old livestock should be removed from the herd as predators may key in on these animals. Once a predator identifies livestock as easy prey it will likely continue to kill even healthy animals.
- Livestock owners should keep records and identify each animal through tagging or branding to make it easier to identify losses.
- Keep a journal of predator conflicts. Over time this journal can be used to show areas or time periods in which predator conflicts peak. Preventative measures can then be taken.
- Remove livestock and poultry carcasses by burying, incinerating or rendering to reduce attractants.
- Refer to Best Management Practices
Pet food should be kept in an airtight, non-odorous container locked inside residences. Pet food should not be left unattended outside. If pet are fed outdoors, bring in the food dish between feedings.
Farmers and ranchers can use existing hunting and trapping seasons to control predators. Farmers and ranchers must ensure that they comply with all Federal, Provincial and Municipal regulations surrounding hunting, trapping and the discharge of firearms in their area. Predation losses can be reduced/minimized by practicing good animal husbandry.
The use of repellents and scare devices is based on the idea that predators are repelled by new or strange odours, sights or sounds. Predators can adapt quite quickly to scare devices so regularly altering how they are deployed is important. Combining different types of scare devices seems to work better than just using one. Repellents and scare devices include:
- Propane cannons, horns, sirens, flashing lights and radios with sound amplifiers.
- Some scare devices may be prohibited by local bylaws.
Contact the local bylaw department before using such products.
Ensure that the smoker site is as clean as possible. Fish entrails and by-products shouldn’t be left on site. Fish entrails that are left on site should be stored in an airtight bear proof container and taken to a landfill as soon as possible. Fish cleaning and processing sites should be located away from the smoker site to reduce the intensity of the attractants.
Bears are opportunistic feeders and will be attracted to unclean smoker sites where food is easily obtained. Smokehouses can be protected and secured by the installation of electric fencing. Portable smokers should be kept in a bear proof shed or garage while not in use. Smoker sites should not be located around area of dense bush. Dense bush acts as cover and provides a sense of security to bears. Heavy bush surrounding smoker sites should be removed.