City working towards Bear Smart status

Progress is being made on making Prince George a Bear Smart community, but there is still work to be done.

Steps still to be taken include enhancing education installing decals on garbage carts and posting signs at landfills, transfer stations and at trailheads where bears are often found.

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"Greenways especially from the river and in College Heights are especially popular bear corridors," the city's strategic parks planner, Laurie-Ann Kosec, told council on Monday night.

"We'd like to get signage in place to let people know bears frequent these areas."

The work also includes reviewing the city's bylaws to make sure they are "Bear Smart compliant." .

"Our last resort is fining people," Kosec stressed. "We'd like to work with them and educate them first."

Just eight communities have achieved Bear Smart status - the northernmost being Kamloops, council was told. The program is designed to address the root causes of conflicts between bears and humans.

Over the past 10 years Prince George had an average of 890 bear calls and 35 destroyed bears per year, which represents the highest numbers of any community in B.C.

Of the calls received related to attractants, 70 per cent are due to bears getting into garbage, Northern Bear Awareness president Dave Bakker told council.

"Unsecured trash in our neighbourhoods is bringing these bears in," Bakker said.

A further nine to 12 per cent involves bears being drawn into yards by fruit trees.

"It doesn't sound like very much but consider that fruit trees are only available for a four-to-six-week period," Bakker said and added it comes at a time when bears go into a state of hyperphagia, when bears up their scramble for calories.

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