It is spring and bears have been sighted in and around Whitehorse. Finally the snow is melting. It is time to secure all of our attractants to avoid trouble with bears this year. We can expect them to come around looking for a meal. Garbage, compost, bird feeders, chicken coops and other livestock, feed, meat caches, fish camps, pet food, feces and bones and even petroleum products are all highly attractive to bears. Environment Yukon's Conservation Officers spend a lot of their summer responding to calls from the public in all Yukon Communities when bears get into these things. WildWise would rather they spend the summer doing conservation work. So please help them focus on protecting a healthy, sustainable environment by doing your part to reduce conflict where you live, work and play.
Here is an excellent video that clearly explains what will happen if a bear gets into your stuff and what to do about it if one does.
This video shows a perfect example of a food conditioned bear. These viewers should have driven away long before the bear approached their vehicle. Lack of negative consequence for the bear just reinforced its perception that humans are safe and a good source of food.
1. Attractant management is key. Garbage, compost, petroleum products, feed, livestock and food grown in our gardens are all wildlife attractants. Our own mess is the biggest contributor to human-wildlife conflict. Waste management is a shared responsibility. We can make sure attractants are not accessible on our own properties and we can encourage municipalities to create and maintain wildlife friendly waste management systems. Electric fencing is inexpensive, easy to install and saves replacing valuable feed and livestock and prevents destruction of wildlife. Scroll down to find a backyard checklist that will help you manage attractants on your property and information about electric fencing.
2. Keep your distance. Wildlife viewing can be interesting and fun. We are tempted to stop and take photos on the side of the road or even when we encounter an animal along the trail. Please keep your encounters brief and maintain as much distance as possible. Don't get out of your car to take that photo and when you encounter a bear on the trail, back away and tell the bear you are leaving; this is not a good time to take a photo.
3. Don't feed the wildlife! Leaving food out for foxes and other animals is a death sentence for them and asking for trouble for you. Conservation Officers may issue a Dangerous Wildlife Protection Order if they determine that you are not managing attractants on your property appropriately. Scroll down the page for more information about how to make your yard safe.
4. Travel through wilderness areas carefully and consciously. When you are exploring wilderness areas you are likely to encounter animals. Plan on it. Pack all food and cosmetics in bear proof canisters. Cook food far from your sleeping area and don't sleep in clothes you have cooked in. Carry bear spray and know how to use it.
Managing human garbage and other wildlife attractants is the most effective way of reducing human-wildlife conflict. Everyone produces waste at home, at work, every time we purchase a product that is packaged and/or transported. Wastes include garbage, recycling, compost and hazardous materials and all may be attractive to wildlife. Reducing the amount of waste we produce and the number of negative encounters with wildlife both equals savings for tax payers, governments and businesses and helps keep wildlife wild, alive, and contributing their valuable ecosystem services.
In Whitehorse, our municipal government provides waste containers and curbside collection within the city limits and manages the municipal landfill. The Wildlife Act gives Yukon Government the authority to enforce regulations which protect wildlife, including regulations concerning the appropriate storage and disposal of wildlife attractants.
Please check back here over the coming weeks as we populate this page with resources to help individuals, decision makers and governments choose waste management options which are safe for wildlife and humans.
Bears love compost piles because they're full of food. Even if they don't stink, bears like 'em and will get into them, thinking nothing of tearing your carefully constructed composter apart and finding the goods. And if they get a reward the first time they do it, they'll be back!
Nobody likes a food-conditioned bear. They are dangerous and at risk for being needlessly destroyed.
There are two ways that we can think of to deal with this situation.
1. Put an electric fence around your compost pile. One large perimeter electric fence can contain your livestock, feed shed and compost pile all in one. Alternately, a smaller fence can be put up just for your compost pile.
2. BUILD THIS! This is a truly creative solution for those of you who love to make your own compost and don't love to work with electric fencing.
Good luck and happy composting!
Fair question. Wildlife can easily become used to seeing, smelling and hearing pets on or off-leash and become bolder and bolder, approaching humans and pets on trails in in our own backyards. Food conditioning happens when wildlife get a reward from a food source (like our garbage bins, smokers, outdoor freezers, dog bones) and usually results in the animal returning for another reward and sometimes aggressively defending the reward they have found. A food conditioned wild animal is a dangerous one. Every year pets are killed or injured by wolves, foxes, coyotes, bears and other wildlife. Wildlife are unnecessarily destroyed every year when they approach human settlements looking for food.
The good news is, it is not hard to keep both pets and wildlife safe and everyone benefits when we do. Please read this article, written by Sarah Elmelegie, a biologist in Canmore Alberta. She points out some of the current scientific findings about the stress related impacts of off-leash pets on wildlife and our responsibilities as pet owners. Note that off-leash dogs are the second highest risk enhancing human-behaviour recorded at the time of bear attacks in North America!
Sarah's article: Why dogs belong on a leash outdoors.
WildWise Yukon, with support from Yukon Government and the Community Development Fund, has designed a series of posters intended to encourage and remind people to keep both wildlife and pets safe by securing their furry loved ones. Practicing responsible pet ownership includes ensuring that our pets are safe and secure from predators. Secure enclosures, walking dogs on a leash and bringing our pets inside are all simple steps toward this goal. Practicing responsible environmental stewardship involves keeping wildlife wild and alive.
We hope our posters act as a reminder and an invitation to help us take simple steps to make Whitehorse safe for people, pets and wildlife.
We are hoping to enroll a few Whitehorse area flock owners in this program to find out what supports you need to keep your flock safe from bears and bears safe from your flock.
We are developing the criteria. Flock owners in the Whitehorse area are all welcome to inquire. Please check back here over the coming months for more information. In the meantime, check out these resources: