Conservation officers urge bear awareness

The Yukon is bear country, but it seems that residents sometimes forget that. The Yukon Department of the Environment is making a renewed effort to break Yukoners out of their complacency. "We can't change the bears' behaviour, but we can change ours," said conservation officer Kris Gustafson.

The Yukon is bear country, but it seems that residents sometimes forget that.

The Yukon Department of the Environment is making a renewed effort to break Yukoners out of their complacency.

“We can’t change the bears’ behaviour, but we can change ours,” said conservation officer Kris Gustafson.

It’s been a busy year for bears so far.

“This year we’re seeing an inordinate amount of calls,” said Gustafson. “We’ve got all three of our traps set right now.”

Many bear problems are caused by garbage left on people’s porches, he said.

“If you leave garbage on your porch in the Yukon, unless you live on Main Street, you’re going to attract a bear,” said Gustafson.

If Yukoners are bad around the house, they’re even worse around campsites. And they seem to be getting worse.

Already parks officers have given out more than 25 warnings and ticketed two people for attracting wildlife.

If the trend continues, it may double the number of warnings and tickets they doled out last year, said Greg Cote, supervisor of the Yukon’s parks officers.

“We had one guy leave a fully cooked pot roast on a picnic table while he went into town for beer,” he said.

For the most part, it’s Yukoners that are causing the problems. Tourists seem to be a lot less complacent, said Cote.

“A lot of people think it’s OK because nothing has ever happened, and therefore nothing ever will happen,” he said. “We’re just trying to drive home the point that there’s always a potential that a bear or something else will get into their food and be habituated, and then we have to deal with it.”

Chasing away, relocating, and even killing bears doesn’t solve anything, if people don’t take responsibility in managing attractants, said Gustafson.

“For people, it may happen once in a lifetime, but for us it is happening all day, every day,” he said.

It’s not hard to do.

At home, it’s simply a matter of keeping garbage off the porch and barbecues clean.

On campsites, it’s the same principle. Just put food and garbage it in your trunk, said Cote.

The Department of the Environment has even installed bear-proof lockers at Marsh Lake and Wolf Creek campgrounds for people who don’t have that option.

“You’re not just putting yourself in danger, but all the other campers as well,” said Cote.

Contact Josh Kerr at

joshk@yukon-news.com

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