BC Conservation Officer Stuart Bates loads a tranquilized five-year-old female black bear into a trailer for relocation. (Kara Olson photo)

Editorial: Don’t feed the bears, deliberately or otherwise

We’d like to beg people not to deliberately feed the bears

It’s a perennial story: spring comes and so do the bears. And along with the bears come human-wildlife conflicts.

In Cowichan, hotspots for conflicts last year included Shawnigan Lake, Maple Bay and Cowichan Lake. Along with not putting out your garbage early, and making sure you take the fruit from your fruit trees before the bears come to dine, we’d like to beg people not to deliberately feed the bears.

One would think this would go without saying, but history has shown us differently. Just last July the B.C. Conservation Officer Service warned people not to feed a young bear that was hanging out west of Youbou. People had been spotted getting out of cars to try to give it food. In August of 2019 the MARS Wildlife Rescue Centre put out a warning to discourage people who were stopping on Hwy. 4 near Kennedy Lake on the way to Tofino to feed a black bear. In 2018 two people were charged after photos circulated on social media of people feeding another B.C. bear Timbits.

And those are just a few examples; there are many more cases.

Some people think they are being kind, feeding a hungry animal a bit of nourishment. They are wrong. They are putting both themselves and the bear in danger. While black bears (the kind of bears common to Cowichan) are not overly aggressive, they are still wild animals and people need to remember that. They are big, strong (far, far stronger than you), and can kill you. And much like your dog at the dinner table, they do not need human food.

Bears that become habituated to being fed by people are at much greater risk of having to be euthanized by authorities. Bears remember very clearly where they got food from in the past and will seek it out there in the future. So if they become unafraid of humans and desire human food because they’ve gotten a taste for it, they will enter our communities and pose and danger to the people living there, not to mention our domesticated pets.

Then there are the really reprehensible people who try to entice bears close with food so they can get photos for their social media accounts. This isn’t misguided, it’s stupid and self-indulgent in the worst way. Don’t do it.

We humans are supposed to be the smarter of the two in this bear-human dynamic. We need to act like it and enjoy wildlife like bears from a safe distance — safe for both the humans and the bears.