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Beware: Bears are awake

Bird seed a particularly problematic attraction in Qualicum Beach
Bears are up and about

There's a side to the old cartoon that nobody ever talks about — the part where Ranger Smith is forced to go after Yogi and Boo Boo with a Smith and Wesson.

That's what happened in Qualicum Beach recently, when Conservation Officers were forced to kill a bear that had become habituated to garbage.

Crystal McMillan, the executive director of Bearsmart B.C., said the bear had been looting garbage cans on Turner Road and had to be destroyed on April 22.

"It was a garbage bear that had been into people's garbage around there," McMillan said. "It was getting into garbage repeatedly over a number of days and not leaving the premises where it got the garbage. That's what they do. They keep coming back once they get those high calorie food sources."

It's not the bear's fault, she noted, as it is just doing what comes naturally. Rather, it's the people who leave their garbage and other attractants out that put conservation officers in the position of having to take such drastic action.

"I wrote bear hazard assessment for Town of Qualicum Beach and we found that garbage is the number one attractant for bears and other wildlife," she said. "Most of the attractants are on the outlying areas and that's where they become food conditioned or habituated. Then they make their way into town. Garbage is high in calories and easily accessed in a lot of places."

McMillan noted she is currently presenting a series of lectures on bear safety for the Regional District of Nanaimo.

"We are reaching out to all areas to help them more effectively manage their backyard attractants," she said. "We are looking at the number one attractant being garbage or food sources left outside, pet foods and compost, barbecues, livestock feed and commercial waste containers."

Surprisingly, she said bird seed is a particularly problematic attractant in Qualicum Beach.

"Bears look at bird seed as candy," she said.

The most important thing residents can do to avoid having a hungry bruin nosing about, she said, is to refrain from putting their garbage or recycling bins outside the night before pickup.

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