Bears, cougars and other large mammals are a simple fact of life on many rural lands in North America.
Recently, we discovered evidence of a cougar (mountain lion) assault on a bull not 200 feet from our backyard. And we have got a big, fat male black bear living not too far into the woods just behind our land.
However, it was not always that way.
I grew up in the Nation. As kids, we played in the paths in the dense bush for hours and hours. Never, ever did we even consider coming across a bear, a cougar, an elk or any of the other crazy animals that we see (or see signs of) so often nowadays. And we never really ran into any.
Whether the inhabitants have grown, or the animals’ movement patterns have changed, I do not understand. Probably a bit of both. Now they are everywhere! Now I will admit, it is actually reassuring to know they are out there in larger numbers today, like maybe we have turned a corner after nearly extinguishing them in the past hundred plus years. But with a young child in the home who loves to play outdoors, I do not want them too close.
So how can you ensure that residing on your rural property will not put you in conflict with the neighborhood large wildlife?
You can reduce the chance you will have problems with wildlife on your rural property by ensuring you are not guilty of any of these:
Bears love pet food, and if a bear is in your porch munching dog chow, odds are the bear will wind up dead. If the feeding continues, it is going to get more and more aggressive in its pursuit of its favorite, simple food source, and you will probably have to call the police (conservation officer, authorities, etc.) to take care of it. Raccoons, rats and all kinds of other animals are also attracted to pet food – and all these can encourage predatory animals such as coyotes to start frequenting your property. If you have got livestock, you don’t want coyotes drifting around. Alternately, you can feed your pet in a safe place which isn’t available to bears. But draining the bowl, and maintaining the bag of food safe, is your safest bet.
You get a messy compost pile. Hungry bears love unkempt compost piles filled with smelly, half-digested fruits and veggies – it is a yummy meal for our furry, large four-legged friends. If you do that, the material must decompost fast enough that the odor will not attract curious bears. In my prior life, I was a part of a group that produced a video on’composting in bear country’ – you can see it here: bearcountry.gardensmart.ca. It is a comprehensive resource that will assist you maintain bears safe and away from the premises.
Fruit is left in your own trees outside ripening. Fruit is like candy to a bear, and they will do most anything to get it within their bellies, such as ripping apart your own fruit trees – or anything standing in their way. If you wind up with fallen fruit, the best option would be to spoil it immediately under at least 12″ of dirt. The purpose is to get rid of the odor from wafting on the breeze. Trust me, you do not need to wake up one morning and find a black bear lounging on your apple tree. Chances are it will wind up dead, as bears habituated to eating meals around people is not likely to change their ways, and become a potential threat to pets, kids, and adults alike. I am actually amazed there are not more injuries, to tell the truth.
Someone in your household purposely feeds wildlife. In many authorities, feeding wildlife is against the law, as it creates a dependence on and habituation to continued feeding. The sole exception to this is likely birds. Here is an extreme example: In August of 2010, a dozen bears were found surrounding a grow-op at south-central British Columbia during a separation by authorities. Apparently the men and women who lived on the property was feeding them so they would hang out and guard the surgery. I’m not certain what happened to the grow-op bears, but odds are it will not turn out really well. Things to do : Just do not do it, irrespective of how exciting it may be to see wildlife on your property. We love watching wildlife – it is part of the reason we moved to the nation. But we would never think about feeding them on purpose. It simply can not be done.
Garbage is left out, unprotected. Garbage left out, whether in bags or cans, is a wildlife attractant, plain and simple. In its least hazardous, crows, ravens and other smaller creatures will enter it and spread litter around your premises. Messy, but not benign. At the opposite end of the scale, it is going to attract bears and other big, opportunistic feeders, who’ll become accustomed to the simple foods and will get mighty ticked off if anything stands in their way. What to do : Keep crap secured at a’bear-resistant’ garbage container, or secured within a safe building. Ensure any smelly garbage (fish bones, etc.) is buried, burnt or suspended until garbage day, and any paper or plastic wrappers from meat, fish or poultry are well rinsed before they go in the garbage.
Now, if some of the above situations seem familiar to you, do not worry. We are all busy, and things get overlooked. But the reality is, it’s simple to dramatically reduce the probability of conflict with bears and other major wildlife. The changes listed above could be made instantly, and with no outlay of cash.