WildSafeBC presents a wild weekend in September

The first annual "BC Goes Wild" event will provide lots of opportunities to get out and get close to nature.

It’s great to see a bear in the wild, but not so great when it turns your fruit trees into a buffet, as this bear is doing with an apple tree.

It’s great to see a bear in the wild, but not so great when it turns your fruit trees into a buffet, as this bear is doing with an apple tree.

It will be a “wild” weekend on September 17 and 18, as WildSafeBC stages its inaugural “B.C. Goes Wild” event. The focus will be on all the cool wildlife the province has to offer says Frank Ritcey, provincial coordinator for WildSafeBC.

“We’re trying a couple of different things,” he says, including a photo contest and an adult colouring competition, featuring a poster that participants can print off and colour in. Coordinators throughout the province will be hosting events in different communities, such as a wildlife count where participants note what critters they see while out and about in their area, and Ritcey hopes people will use the weekend as a chance to enjoy the great outdoors. Planning a hike, taking a bike ride or paddle, or going on a photo shoot—either alone or with a group—are just a few of the suggested options.

WildSafeBC’s motto is “Keeping wildlife wild and communities safe”, and Ritcey stresses that the animals all around us are great if they’re out doing things where they’re supposed to be doing them. Part of the goal of the weekend is to educate people about what they can do to ensure that our “wild”life stays just that.

The weekend will be followed up a week-long initiative in which communities that have bylaws about putting out garbage early highlight that bylaw. The recent shooting of nine bears in Revelstoke over the course of three days, largely because they had been attracted into town by garbage and by fruit left ungathered, has “really cranked up enforcement” of garbage bylaws, says Ritcey. “It seems to be a tipping point that we’re at.

“It’s not the right thing to put out garbage the night before,” he continues. “People are inviting bears into their communities.”

He says that sightings of bears in communities peak in the third week of September. That is when they are in hyperphagia, which is the preparation for hibernation. During hyperphagia, bears need to consume 15,000 to 20,000 calories per day. “That’s their focus,” says Ritcey. “It’s constant eating.”

The third week in September generally sees a spike in bears coming into communities as they fatten up for winter. Photo courtesy WildSafeBC

This quest for food is what sends many bears into communities where they find easy access to garbage. Fruit trees are right behind garbage as an attractant for bears, and those with fruit trees in their yard are encouraged to pick fruit as soon as it ripens, and gather up any windfalls rather than leaving them to rot on the ground. If you have too much fruit to manage, ask friends to come and help pick it, and consider donating the surplus to the local food bank.

While homeowners might not mind losing some of their fruit to a bear, they are not doing the bears any favours. Bears that learn they can find food around houses soon lose their fear of humans, and the all-too-common result is the bear being destroyed.

Ritcey says that we have been fortunate in the area this summer, as the berry crops up high are usually finishing now. “This year is different. It’s been a good year for berries in the high country,” he notes, saying he observed bumper crops of soapberries (also called soapalallies or buffalo berries) up high around Kamloops this summer. “The berries, clover, and grass are doing well this year, so hopefully bears continue to get food from natural sources.”

A bumper crop of soapberries is keeping bears in the high country . . . for now. Photo by Frank Ritcey

For more information about BC Goes Wild, as well as tips on reducing human-wildlife conflicts, visit www.wildsafebc.com.

Ashcroft Cache Creek Journal