Kindergarten students at Errington Elementary strain as they try out the new bear-proof garbage container installed at the school through the efforts of the BearSmart B.C. community program.

Experts urge residents to be bear aware in Parksville Qualicum Beach

Report any bear, or cougar, sightings to the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277

A black bear hanging around Oceanside Elementary School is an important reminder for people not to leave garbage out, according to experts.

“It was seen on school grounds this morning (Oct. 4) and has been getting into the garbage at the school and elsewhere in the neighbourhood,” BearSmart B.C.’s Crystal McMillan said.

“The problem is people don’t understand that garbage or other foods elsewhere in the neighbourhood leads the bear then onto the school grounds,” she said.

She reminds people to “manage their attractants,” by securing or getting rid of things like compost, recycling, barbecues, backyard chickens, pet food, bird feeders and fruit trees.

She said that while people think it might be harmless to allow a bear to eat apples in your yard, it can habituate the bear to easy food and the human environment and it then has to be dealt with before it becomes a danger to people, especially children.

She also urges people to report bear sightings to the conservation office to help them track and deal with behaviour before it becomes a problem.

“People think it saves the animal by not reporting it,” she said, suggesting the bear may have been in the neighbourhood for weeks, “but if you don’t phone in that just becomes a dead bear.”

“Clean that stuff up, lock it down, every property owner is the first line of preventative wildlife management, otherwise the conservation officer has to deal with it.”

Meanwhile at Errington Elementary School, a number of groups came together to help reduce human-bear interactions around the elementary school with a special garbage can.

“This protects the kids, the trail users and the bears,” pointed out McMillan.

The school, in co-operation with the Arrowsmith Naturalists Club, BearSmart and the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) installed a bear-resistant container at the trail head beside the school.

It prevents bears from getting into garbage left by users of the trail and learning to associate people with food.

Funding came from Mid-Island Veterinary Services, BearSmart, Bare Roots Natural Health and Yoga Centre and their generous clientele, the Arrowsmith Naturalists Club, B.C. Nature/B.C. Naturalists and the RDN.

To report conflicts with bears where public safety is at risk call the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277.

The reports allow them to work together to fix the problem before it gets out of control, McMillan said.

“When you report encounters with dangerous wildlife, it may not result in the removal of the animal, in fact, if reported soon enough, conservation officers, municipal workers and community volunteers can often change human behaviour before it results in the removal of the animal,” she said.

For more on dealing with bears visit www.bearsmartbc.com or contact McMillan at bearsmartbc@telus.net or 250-951-WILD (9453).

Report any bear, or cougar, sightings to the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277.

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