Safety Guide to Bears
at Your Home
As of 1999, the Wildlife Act now prohibits feeding or
intentionally attracting bears.
Persons who do so are subject to penalties under the Wildlife
British Columbia is bear country. No matter where you live
or spend your leisure time in this province - even in urban
areas - you will be near bears or bear habitat.
The Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks receives thousands
of bear complaints yearly. Every year, some 200 to 400 black
bears and 10 to 30 grizzly bears are killed because they were
perceived to be dangerous to human life or property.
Over the years, people have tended to settle into lush valley
bottoms and along creeks - places where bears have lived for
thousands of years. We can't expect bears to change; instead,
we must modify our own behaviour to allow bears and people the
freedom to live each other safely.
Why Does Contact Occur?
Because of people:
Bears need large quantities of food to survive and produce
young. Odours from carelessly stored food and garbage can lure
bears long distances. Once a bear has tasted human food or garbage,
it will remember the source and return again and again - bears
have been known to return hundreds of kilometres to a human
food source after having been relocated.
Because of other bears:
Young bears, especially young males, are not tolerated by adult
bears. They may search for new habitats and wander near our
communities. Females with cubs may also be forced to feed near
human settlements because adult male bears may kill cubs.
Because natural foods fail:
Berries, salmon, and succulent vegetation are important bear
foods. Climatic factors such as drought or frost may result
in a food shortage, and bears will travel hundreds of kilometres
in search of food. Although they generally avoid us, a hungry
bear will have less fear of humans.
Because the bears are not healthy:
Orphaned cubs and old, sick, or injured bears may be unable
to forage, and may seek out easier sources, such as human food
What You Should Do
- Watch for bears when they are active between May and October,
but especially during August and September.
- If you live in a mild area such as Vancouver Island or the
Lower Mainland, bears may be active all year.
- Do not feed bears.
- Keep outdoor storage containers, such as those for pet foods
and livestock feed, air-tight and odour free. Use bear-resistant
containers whenever possible, or better still, keep supplies
- Do not leave garbage, pet food or livestock feed in the
back of pickup trucks, even under canopies. Canopies are not
- Dogs may be effective at warning you if a bear is nearby,
but make sure all dogs are restrained or in a fenced yard.
- Locate compost heaps, livestock, beehives, and other bear
food sources away from forests, thickets and natural pathways
used by bears.
- Enclose fruit trees, livestock, or beehives with strong
chain-link or electric fencing.
- Thin the bush on your property or create a break in natural
bear pathways that lead to your house.
- Keep garbage containers indoors - inside a locked shed,
garage, or basement until pick-up day.
- Dispose of garbage regularly - don't stockpile it or it
will begin to smell and attract bears.
- 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.
- Do not put meat byproducts, fish, or fruit into your compost.
- Sprinkle your compost with lime. Lime aids the composting
process, and also reduces the smell, discouraging bears.
- Place beehives on a platform with an overhang more than
two metres above the ground, or surround them with electric
- Don't set up beehives in the early spring when other bear
foods are not yet abundant.
- Wire beehives together with metal strapping.
- Be watchful at barbecues. The smell from cooking meat attracts
- Store barbeques inside.
- Wash grills immediately after use. The smell of an uncleaned
grill can attract bears even if it is stored.
- Pick fruit daily as it ripens; don't allow it to fall.
- Pick the fruit before it ripens if you don't intend to use
it right away.
What is the Conservation Officer's Responsibility?
Handling wildlife problems is largely the responsibility of
the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks. Conservation officers
must safeguard human life and protect bears.
Can bears be moved?
Most contact with bears ends safely with the bear's voluntary
departure. If Conservation Officers were called in to relocate
every bear seen by the public, there would be very little
time or energy to devote to other wildlife protection activities.
However, Conservation Officers will move bears if:
- The bear poses a threat to human life or property;
- Live bear traps can be used safely;
- The bear can be drugged without injury and without endangering
the Conservation Officer or the public;
- Suitable bear habitat is available (distant enough so that
the bear is unlikely to return, yet close enough so that the
move is practical); and
- The bear has not grown accustomed to human food or garbage.
Relocating bears is not an ideal solution. Areas for release
are not always available, and zoos or game farms are not always
available, and zoos and game farms are rarely suitable options.
Many relocated bears find their new habitat occupied, and may
be killed by the existing bears or starved if food supplies
are limited. Others are forced to return to human food sources,
where they may be destroyed as repeat offenders.
A bear will not be moved if it is:
- Accustomed to human food or garbage;
- Too young to establish a territory;
- Wounded, sick, starving, or old; or
- Immediately hazardous to people or property.
Problem Bears Which Cannot Be Moved Are Destroyed.
If You Spot a Bear in a Residential Area or in a Tree with
- Remain calm. Often, the bear is just passing through and,
if it finds no food source, will simply move on.
- Keep away from the bear. Warn others to keep away as well,
and bring your children and pets into the house.
- If the bear appears to be threatening, persistent, or aggressive,
call the Conservation Officer in your area. If there is no
Conservation Officer in your area, phone local police or the
- If conflict should occur, do not attempt to resolve it yourself.
The Conservation Officer is a professional and has been trained
to deal with wildlife.
This page is part of a series directed to bear safety
in British Columbia. Also check the BC Environment Safety
Guide to Bears in the Wild, which describes how to avoid
conflict with bears in wilderness areas.