A report of a black bear climbing into a pickup truck in Metchosin this week is a worrying sign that the animals are losing their fear of humans and relying on them to provide food, says a wildlife educator.
Sam Webb of Wild Wise, an educational outreach program focusing on reducing human-wildlife conflicts, said this is the time of year bears are fattening up for hibernation.
As natural food sources such as berries and salmon disappear and fawns grow faster, bears are hunting for easy fixings.
That’s what a female bear and her cubs might have been looking for on McVicker Road in Metchosin, where the bear pushed open the back window of a truck and climbed inside the vehicle.
“It’s not natural for a bear to break into a car,” said Webb. “But I wouldn’t put anything past them when they are looking for food.”
Webb said bears are highly intelligent and will try just about anything to get to food, so it’s up to humans to deny them any chance.
That means storing garbage in sheds or garages, not leaving pet foods unattended, cleaning fallen seeds from bird feeders, securing livestock behind electric fences, picking fruit trees early and not leaving any food or even wrappings in your vehicles.
In nature, bears typically slip into hibernation mode in the late fall and early winter, as natural food sources wither. But if they are habituated to garbage or other year-round food sources, they may not hibernate at all or have a very short sleep.
“That’s where it gets to be an unhealthy relationship,” said Webb. “We want them to go into a slumber, what’s natural.”
Bear attacks on sheep have been a persistent problem this spring and summer in Metchosin, with an estimated 15 sheep killed by bear. The killings tapered off in late August with the berry season.
Webb said fruit trees are main attractants for bears this month.
Wild Wise encourages property owners to pick their fruit early, including fruit that falls to the ground. The organization has set up a service where volunteers will come to your property and pick the fruit. You can email your contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org