Stopping the Slaughter of Bears

May 28, 1997

By Michael Jessen

Bears and garbage. The two get together too often.

From 1992 to 1996, the Conservation Officer Service received an average of 8,280 complaints each year about black bears and 315 each year about grizzly bears. That's a total of 42,975 complaints. An average of 284 black bears and 45 grizzlies were relocated annually during the five years.

Now the really harsh numbers: an average of 849 black bears and 51 grizzlies were killed each year during this period. That's a total of 4,500 bears killed, mostly due to their attraction to garbage and compost. And the Conservation Officer Service spends about $1 million a year dealing with bear/people conflicts.

Bears are active between May and October, but especially during August and September. Some rules to reduce bear/human conflicts are:

Do not leave pet food or livestock feed outdoors. Keep garbage containers indoors -- inside a locked shed, garage, or basement until garbage day. Dispose of garbage regularly. Never leave fish parts, meat bones, or other meat byproducts where a bear's sensitive nose can find them -- keep them in your freezer until you can dispose of them properly. Cover material in your composter with a 4" layer of soil. Stir or aerate your compost weekly. Do not put meat byproducts, fish, cooking oil, grease, or dairy products in your compost. Sprinkle your compost with lime to aid the composting process and reduce smells, discouraging bears. Wash your barbeque grills immediately after use. An uncleaned grill can attract bears even if it is stored. Pick fruit daily as it ripens; don't allow it to fall.

Bears are not the problem; the problem is us. It is our responsibility to take steps to lessen the opportunities for conflict -- and avoid the needless slaughter of bears.

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