Black Bears In Blueridge

Editors Note: Black bears are a fixture in Blueridge. In the spring of 2022 the neighbourhood saw quite a few bears, and a lot of discussion about them happened on social media. In response, a local resident provided the information below, which is definitely worth sharing. It has been lightly edited and links added where appropriate. You can also refer to our page about garbage and bears in Blueridge for specific suggestions – and more links – about some of these issues.

Jodene Wood

Most of us moved to Blueridge because we wanted to be close to nature, as not many neighborhoods are surrounded by beautiful forest on three sides, with forested trails connecting many of our streets. Recently, Blueridge residents have been reporting lots of bear sightings, which makes sense because bears are part of our local environment, along with coyotes, owls, eagles, skunks, raccoons and exciting recent sightings of the return of pine martens. I won’t pretend to be an expert in any way, but have been learning from the North Shore Black Bear Society (NSBBS), Fur-Bearers and BC Bear Alliance [link no longer valid] to better understand them, figure out why they keep being destroyed and how we can co-exist. It seems we need to be more informed and less afraid, as my 35-lb terrier easily scared a large black bear into a tree! The mama bears teach their cubs to climb trees for protection, so they sometimes knock down fences as they are trying to quickly find and climb a tree for safety. Many of our local bears tend to be mama bears with young cubs that are safer being among humans, as larger mature males will kill the cubs in the forest. The ‘teen bears’ we are currently seeing have just left their mothers and tend to be shy but very curious, which is sometimes mistaken for stalking and aggression. These teens will grow over the summer so they can safely move deeper into the forest. Most are happily eating grass and dandelions before natural fruit food sources become available. If we do see one, using a firm voice to tell them to get back in the forest will almost always get their attention and move them along.

Although people think black bears are nocturnal, they are actually most active in the day, like us. Problems happen when they start accessing unnatural food sources with high calorie rewards such as smelly garbage, improper composting, bird seed and unpicked fruit. Many people think that reporting bears will result in their relocation, so we feel comfortable doing so. Unfortunately, when people report bear incidents to the BC Conservation service the bears are labelled ‘food conditioned’ or ‘habituated’. The result is almost always that the conservation officers just inhumanely trap and kill our bears. Only some young cubs under a year old are sent to Critter Care Wildlife Society in Langley to be rehabilitated and eventually re-released. However, a report was recently released that conservation officers killed 77 cubs last year for unknown reasons.

The District of North Vancouver has taken recommendations from the NSBBS and concerns from residents as they implement rules changes to protect bears, such as the rules around setting out our garbage carts. There are some attempts to reach Bear Smart status, like Whistler. However, there is more to it. During a conversation with one good neighbour that was about to be fined for putting their carts out the night before pickup, they explained there was no real difference than leaving them in their car port. When I suggested putting them in their shed, they said the bins were too stinky to put in the shed. I hope the irony is not lost here. Freezing our food waste in brown bags and adding them to our green bins on collection day easily solves this problem. Cleaning our bins out with a vinegar solution will keep our bins from getting stinky and attracting bears and rats! That way those with garages can keep them indoors without getting their garages ‘stinky’. For those people with fruit trees, the best advice is to harvest often and don’t let windfall fruit stay on the ground. If you cannot use the fruit put it into your green waste bin and keep that locked inside a garage where a bear cannot get to it. [Editor’s note: we are looking for organizations that will harvest fruit in Blueridge and put it to good use. If we find any we will update this page.]

As a community, we can easily co-exist with our local black bears. After all, we live right in the middle of a beautiful forest. We just need to manage our attractants properly, especially our garbage, unnatural food sources, and use our firm voices when we need to tell bears they are not welcome and need to move along. Myths about dangers of getting between a mama bear and her cubs are actually about grizzlies, which don’t live here. Many cubs have been captured in the presence of mama bears without being attacked. Statistics on black bear attacks show that less than 36 people have been killed by black bears in the last 100 years [link no longer valid], mostly in remote areas where they have never encountered people before. When we meet them, we just need to give them some space. The biggest risk is if we chase them down for pictures and don’t give them space or a way out, making them feel threatened and needing to defend themselves. We can allow them to move around our neighborhoods without harming anything or anyone. If we recognize that they are not here to eat us, our children or pets, and respect them rather than fear them, we can peacefully co-exist.

I really hope that all Blueridge residents can show more compassion and understanding for our local wildlife. In 2020, 631 bears were killed by BC Conservation officers [link no longer valid]. In 2018, several black bears were killed in Blueridge, all due to human error in not managing attractants, although one was due to a car. Sadly, that led to Blueridge being in the news, and we weren’t presented in a positive light. I hope this information will enlighten some of us. If anyone is curious and wants to know more, I would suggest attending NSBBS events and/or following amazing local experts including Christine MillerLuci Cadman [link no longer valid], Ellie Lamb and Lesley Fox, who are all members of the newly created BC Bear Alliance, that is advocating for co-existence and a vision of “a world where animal welfare matters and people can live in harmony”.