Black bears live, play, rest and raise their young in the North Shore forests, but it is not uncommon to see them in urban areas. With more bears emerging from their dens over the past few days, expect to see them on trails, crossing roads, in neighbourhoods and even at the beach.
With the exception of Central and Lower Lonsdale (to date), you can encounter a black bear anywhere on the North Shore, at any time of day or year.
North Shore residents reported bear activity to us over the late winter months, with the accessibility of unnatural foods contributing to some bears denning for shorter periods.
We are aware of 10 bears that are active across the District of North Vancouver and District of West Vancouver.
Often, the bears that we see occupying areas closer to humans are the vulnerable population (females and their cubs, young, old or injured bears). These bears are forced to be more active during the day and often live on the periphery of urban areas to seek safety from dominant male bears.
Bears are not in the neighbourhood to hurt people or pets, but they are not domesticated. Do not approach them, especially for photographs. If you encounter a bear: be present, stay calm, talk to them in a calm voice (any language to identify yourself as human) and slowly back way. Do not expect bears to run away from you or your dog. Bears aim to avoid close encounters but they are not fearful of people – and we don’t want them to be.
When we share the landscape with bears, it is important that we set boundaries by not inviting them to our homes with food and encouraging them to move on – from a safe place – if they visit. As soon as you see a bear on your property, go to a window or deck, make eye contact and use a firm, persistent tone to encourage the bear to leave.
They understand by our tone where they are not welcome (providing you aren’t tempting them with food). Bears have incredible memories. If you had a bear in your unsecured garbage or unpicked fruit tree last year, expect another furry visitor again if you haven’t made efforts to secure attractants.
Please act on advice to store garbage and food scraps inside a garage or secure and locked enclosure. Remove bird feeders, feed pets inside, clean BBQ grills and grease traps after each use, install and maintain electric fencing around beehives and chicken coops and keep vehicles secure and free from garbage and food.
If we all take steps to secure these items from bears, we reduce their reason for being on properties and encourage them to find natural foods in the green spaces nearby.
Sadly, bears that find food from humans are often killed, with 5 bears losing their lives last year. Every new season offers an opportunity to show the wider members of our community that their lives have value by being respectful and responsible residents of bear country.
Luci Cadman is the executive director of the North Shore Black Bear Society.