The bears are awake and Yukoners are being reminded to be bear aware.
“The bears have been out for about two or three weeks,” said Jim Welsh, hunter education coordinator. “Especially in the last week we’ve seen a few and we’ve gotten lots of reports from the field at this time.”
Since the bears have awoken from their hibernation, Welsh said they are on the prowl for food.
“If I’ve been sleeping for five or six months I’d be looking for food when I came out and they certainly are too,” said Welsh.
Welsh said at this time of year it is important to remind people that bears are present on the land. Welsh said it is important to minimize bear attractants.
“A common thing this time of year is people are putting their bird feeders out and birdseed, bears love that stuff,” said Welsh.
“Lots of people don’t think about them as a bear attractant, but the black bears seem to really love birdseed. If you have a bird feeder make sure you are sweeping up underneath it and it is hung high enough that they can’t get up into it.”
For anyone who has had garbage pile up on their property over the winter, it’s time to get rid of that, he continued.
Another home attractant is backyard chickens.
“It is great if you want to raise chickens, but look at some of our options,” said Welsh. “WildWise Yukon, or if you are a bigger operation, Yukon Agriculture can help and advise you to get a good electric fence around your chickens.”
For campers, Welsh said “almost all the calls that we go to are related to attractants bringing bears to their sites.”
“We really encourage people after camping to do a campsite audit,” said Welsh.“Make sure there are no coolers out and make sure things are locked in the vehicles. This keeps you safe, your camping neighbours safe and the bears safe.”
Bears, Welsh said, habituate to our food “very quickly”.
“It is such an easy, high-energy food source for them,” said Welsh. “Once they’ve had that one time they become habituated so fast they will constantly keep coming back.
“Once bears have gotten into garbage we find them coming back all the time until we have to relocate them or destroy them and we really don’t want that for our bears.”
For those looking to enjoy the Yukon wilderness, Welsh reminded people to be aware of their surroundings while out in the woods.
“One thing we are starting to see is a lack of presence out in the woods,” said Welsh. “Be present, look for signs of bears. There are obvious signs like footprints but also be aware of other things. Maybe there is a bad smell, maybe they’ve cashed roadkill off the trail or there are scavenger birds around.”
While on the land, Welsh said to be sure to identify yourself as human.
“Have something with you or a way to make a non-natural sound. Bears really don’t want to interact with people and will avoid us at all costs when given the opportunity,” he said.
“Signing, talking, being in a group, have a bluetooth speaker with you and have some tunes playing, any of those unnatural sounds will let them know you’re around and keep you and the bears safe.”
To report aggressive encounters with wildlife or a bear in a residential area people can call the TIPP line at 1-800-661-0525.
“The TIPP line is a powerful tool for us to know what is going on in the communities,” said Welsh. “But, we don’t want ‘oh I saw a bear crossing the road’, but if a bear is getting into trouble or is getting habituated or hanging around your house we want to know about those animals.”
Contact John Tonin at firstname.lastname@example.org