Have you spotted a black bear in Courtenay? Depending on the time of year, bear sightings can be a fairly common occurrence in parts our city.

Wildsafe BC offers the following advice about sharing the landscape with bears:

“Since we share the same landscape with bears, it stands to reason that there are going to be times when bears will be in our living space (just as we are often in theirs). As long as a bear is moving through our community, is not lingering, and is not interacting with us or our property then there is no conflict. There are many situations when a bear moving through the community is to be expected: e.g. when they are trying to access a natural food source such as a fish bearing stream or trying to get to foraging opportunities on the other side of what was once their normal home range.

When bears quit moving through the community and start using the community as a foraging area for human-provided foods then conflicts develop. Bears that start using human-provided foods (anthropogenic foods in the words of the biologists) can become food-conditioned. Once a bear starts equating humans with foods, they can lose their natural wariness of humans and become what is called human-habituated (often simply referred to as being habituated). An habituated bear tolerates humans in much closer proximity than what is safe for both bears and humans. This increases the potential for a dangerous interaction between the bears and us.”

Improperly handled garbage is the greatest cause of human-bear conflict in British Columbia, but there are other potential causes too. Any unsecured food source can attract bears to your property. Take the following steps to prevent bears from getting too close:

  • Wait until garbage day to put your trash out at the curb.
  • Don’t allow windfall from fruit trees to accumulate on the ground.
  • Pick fruit and berries as soon as possible as they ripen.
  • Use bird feeders only in winter, when bears are hibernating. If you do use bird feeders year-round, take them in at night, and fill them more frequently with smaller amounts of bird seed to minimize the bear's potential reward. Keep the ground underneath the feeder clean.
  • Feed your pets inside. If you must feed them outside, clean up all food afterwards and store their food securely.

If you encounter a bear:

Safety tips from the Province of BC

  • Do not feed bears. It's against the law to feed dangerous wildlife.
  • Remain calm. Do not run or climb a tree. Slowly back away, talking to the bear in a quiet, monotone voice. Do not scream, turn your back on the bear, kneel down or make direct eye contact.
  • Keep away from the bear. Do not try to get closer to it. If the bear gets too close, use pepper spray (within 7 metres) or something else to threaten or distract it.
  • Stay together. If you are with others, act as a group. Keep children close – pick up and carry small children.
  • Go indoors. Bring pets indoors if possible.
  • Watch the bear until it leaves. Make sure the bear has a clear escape route. After the bear is gone and it's safe, make sure there is nothing in the area that will attract bears back again.

Find out more about managing bear conflicts from the Province of BC

Report aggressive or threatening bears to the Conservation Officer Service at 1 877 952-7277 (RAPP)