It's that time of year when we reap the benefits of our gardens, and sometimes, so do the bears. Berries are a favorite of both grizzly and black bears and they can be seen foraging along trails and in the bush for soapberry, one of their favorites. They are also sometimes found in backyards cashing in on a well tended raspberry crop and even on fruit hanging from ornamental tree species. This can get them into big trouble and make backyards unsafe for people too. Here are some tips to reduce fruit-related conflicts with bears in your yard:
1. Consider planting non-fruiting ornamental trees. Here are some species that may cause you more trouble than joy.
2. Use electric fencing around gardens, especially berry patches. Visit our electric fencing page for information about how to do this.
3. Harvest your fruit as it ripens and clean up any dropped or spilled fruit.
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.
In 2018, we enrolled four Whitehorse area flock owners in our Bear Safe Egg Program. We wanted to find out what supports egg producers need to keep their flock safe from bears and bears safe from their flock.
We developed criteria for being a Bear Safe Egg Producer, helped participants design, finding funding for and install electric fencing and gathered feedback from them all about the program.
“The biggest reason I wanted to fence was the reality of the number of bears destroyed across the territory in 2017 due to human interactions. I felt as a new chicken coop owner I needed to ensure my actions were not contributing to this number. As I live on the interface of rural residential and forest, bears were in the neighbourhood all summer. This limited my use of the trails
and my feeling of safety when out with my kids. It was VERY important to me that I do not enable bears to get into my coop and become 'problem' bears which would put my family and neighbours at risk, as well as the bears. So I would say out of your list, my top reason is to increase the survival rates for chickens and bears, and the safety of the neighbourhood.” (Debi Wickham)
”I used to run out to the coop whenever I heard weird calls from the chickens during the night fearing they were in danger. Now I know that nothing can get in - from wildlife to neighbourhood dogs - and it feels great not to worry. It's easier getting a house sitter when needed to as I don't need to worry if something happens while I am away. I also appreciate the fact that keeping my flock safe also keeps wildlife safe and keeps predators reduced in my neighbourhood. It lets you sleep at night! The investment is totally worth it!” (Ellen Thomas)
Please review these documents for information about how to become certified. We can be reached by phone at 335-5212 if you have questions or want to enroll. Or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
We also found out that flock owners have a big job on their hands looking after the health and well-being of their flock. We came across some very helpful resources along the way. If you have chickens or are planning a chicken coop, you may find these come in handy.
Bears and your meat
Hunting season can bring an abundance of smells and attractants to Yukoners’ yards and properties. Bears are actively searching for food at this time of year, so be smart about where you hang your meat, store your trophy, dispose of meat scraps and bones, and how you store your processed meat. If at all possible, meat should be hung in a cool, ventilated spot that is secure from wildlife. Scraps that are not suitable for human consumption and bones can be bagged and frozen and put out in City of Whitehorse compost collection bins on pickup day, brought to the dump for disposal, or donated to local dog mushers. If you use a meat cache or have a smokehouse, consider electric fencing for these areas. Freezers should be stored indoors or securely locked using additional hasps if stored outdoors. Some simple planning around managing the meat and scraps from your hunt can reduce the chances of attracting bears to your property, creating potential public safety hazards and keep Yukon bears wild & alive. For more on managing attractants on our properties, go to: http://www.env.gov.yk.ca/environment-you/bearsafety.php#yard