VICTORIA, B.C. – As hibernation ends for bears, this is the time of year when bears are in search of food and will bring them close to a community.

The Provincial government says with more people staying home due to COVID-19 and some waste and recycling services impacted, and it is vital to keep bear attractants at bay.

Bear Smart Community Program started in 2012. The program is designed by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, in partnership with the B.C. Conservation Foundation and the Union of B.C. Municipalities. It is based on six criteria that communities must achieve to be recognized as “bear smart.”

The program is a voluntary, preventative conservation measure that encourages communities, businesses and individuals to work together to reduce conflicts with bears. Several more are actively pursuing the designation.

Mike Badry, provincial wildlife conflict manager of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service shared, if bears do not have access to non-natural food sources, such as garbage, fruit and birdseed within communities, they have no reason to hang around. Badry continues to say, and this results in increased safety for both people and bears.

“Residents could turn this unusual time into something positive for wildlife by taking extra time to secure attractants and educate themselves about Bear Smart practices,” said Badry.

Last year, the Conservation Officer Service received more than 20,000 calls related to conflicts with bears. Many of the calls pertained to unsecured attractants. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the Province is reminding citizens to stay safe, healthy and become bear smart.