IN the wake of two recent close calls, North Shore bear conservationists are warning residents that propping open a door in summertime can let in a lot more than a breeze.
On June 10 and again in mid-July, bears entered houses in North and West Vancouver through open doors, according to the North Shore Black Bear Network. No one was hurt, and damage was minimal, but the encounters were serious enough to prompt the group to sound the alarm.
"We're advising people in the hot weather, keep those doors closed if you're in bear areas," said network chairman Tony Webb. "And most of the North Shore is a bear area."
In the most recent incidents, the bears got away, but that's not always the case, he said.
Last year, a North Shore resident found a bear had come in through an open door and "caused a hell of a lot of damage overnight," said Webb. Conservation officers came and had to kill the animal - something Webb's group tries to prevent.
"If a bear goes into a house, it's crossed the line, and that's very bad news for the bear, because they are usually put down in those circumstances," he said. "We don't want that to happen, and we don't want people to have the inside of their house damaged or a person injured."
To keep bears away from the inside of homes, residents first need to stop inviting them to the outside, said Webb, referring to bear attractants that people still leave out casually. That can include bird feeders, fruit trees, unsealed garbage cans and poorly managed composts.
"There's nothing wrong with a bear walking down the street if he keeps going, but if you've got attractants around, he won't keep going. He'll come and investigate those attractants," said Webb.
The best remedy, according to NSBBN, is getting a bear-resistant garbage can. Bears can still smell their delicious contents, but they quickly learn they won't be able to break in, meaning they likely won't come back to try again.
"I've seen bears bash them around and give up and walk away in disgust. That's what we want, because he won't bother to come back usually," said Webb.
Generally speaking, Webb said the public is much more informed about bear safety now, with most people knowing not to panic or run when they see a bear. Still, new challenges come up that groups like NSBBN must address.
Webb noted the growing trend for backyard chicken coops and beekeeping in North America. Even when done extremely well, they are potent bear attractants, he said.
The only way to combat the threat from bears, according to Webb said, is an electric fence. (10,000 volts should do.)