A bear(y) big problem

Community Featured

Pictou County is no stranger to wildlife and this year, residents seem to be seeing a bit more of it than usual. The Department of Lands and Forestry in Pictou County has had a very busy season with bears that like to treat themselves to garbage bins and green bins all over the county.

“This has been an extremely busy season for us,” said Dave Steeves, technician of forest resources for the Pictou County Lands and Forests division. “A vast majority of our calls are green bin and garbage-related.”

Due to a late frost this year, the bears are still looking for food to eat since their regular berries and apples are late to bloom. When food is scarce the bears do what nature tells them and follow their stomachs… straight to your green bin.

Steeves explained that bears and other wildlife are conscious of how much effort it is to obtain their food. If getting food from somewhere is difficult and expending more calories than it’s worth, the animal will move on. This is what makes green bins and garbage bins so appealing, given that the animal doesn’t have to go through a lot of effort to get to the food.

The problem is also something they are adapting to now as well.

“Sows (mother bears) are ingraining in their cubs it’s easier to knock one of those down,” shared Steeves. One of the tips his department often shares with those having issues with animals is to be sure to rinse your green bin out with water and Javex to get rid of any lingering smells. Freezing meat scraps or fish food waste and putting it in the bin the day of collection is another solution, along with using a ratchet strap to secure the top of the bin down or secure it to a tree.

“The last thing we want to have to do is to discourage or hurt an animal for doing what nature tells them to,” said Steeves. He added that bird feeders, barbecues and anything else that emits a food odour can also attract wildlife.

With so many calls, Steeves said his department is not only responding to reports of critters in the rural areas and the fringes of communities but in town as well. If you ever find yourself facing a bear for one reason or another, Steeves recommends some tips:

“The first thing you want to do, you want to make an attempt to not act scared or panic,” he said. Then, he said it is best to act big by putting your hands above your head, backing away, talking to the bear in a loud, authoritative voice and being sure to not back them into a corner but to always leave them an escape route. And whatever you do, do not run away, as this is how the animal’s prey acts and it will likely view you as such.

“We do have bear traps and sometimes folks see them as a fix-all and it’s not,” he said. “We do see it as a last resort.”

The problem with traps, Steeves shared, is that they don’t always work because if the bear has already eaten it won’t be interested in the bait. Even once captured, bears are territorial animals and if one bear gives up its territory another may move in. Captured bears also mean they may have to terminate the bear due to the fact that if it is released back into the wild it will seek out a residential area again looking for food.

Steeves added that if anyone is having trouble with bears and is not sure what to do. they are welcome to call the office or go to https://novascotia.ca/natr/wildlife/nuisance/bears.asp for tips.

Dave Steeves of the Pictou County Lands and Forestry Department shows one of the bear pamphlets they give out to homeowners who might be having bear issues. (Brimicombe photo)