Sub adult bears wreak havoc on bird feeders 

Some local bears are not safely snoozing in their dens, snoring away the winter as they should be.

Instead they’re raiding local bird feeders and keeping bird watchers on their toes.

Shirley Thompson watched a two-year-old bear climb up a tree near her house in Whistler Cay Heights and shake a tree branch until it sent the bird feeder crashing to the ground. Then the bear whisked down the tree and was off to the bush to get his fill.

"They are very smart and they know how to get food if it’s at all possible," she said.

The Thompsons had to cut down tree branches and extend the bird feeder pole further so that the bear could not reach the bird food again.

This is not the only incident of bears going after bird feeders in recent weeks. Local Conservation Officer Chris Doyle said he has also received complaints about bears getting into garbage.

Black bear expert Michael Allen said he knows of at least five bears that are not hibernating yet. Four are trying their luck at bird feeders in Brio, Tapley’s Farm, Alpine Meadows and Emerald Estates, and one is getting into the dump once in a while in Function Junction.

"My concern is, is (this food) keeping them out longer?" said Allen.

"Hibernation is driven by the lack of natural food and if (food is) still there and it’s not too much of a risk... then they’re going to stay out."

Bears generally go into their dens in November after the first snowfall. But if they know there’s a reliable source of food out there, it might entice them to stay out longer and could create a dangerous situation.

"It’s teaching our young segment of the bear population that there’s food near people and that it’s OK to stay out," said Allen.

Allen said four of the bears are sub adults, which means they are three years old or younger.

"These are younger bears," he said.

"Because we have a good berry crop (it) doesn’t necessarily mean all the bears get to take advantage of it."

The younger bears get pushed off to the marginal habitat and don’t get into the main berry areas until most of the crop is gone.

"These sub adult, less dominant bears that are out now, they’re kind of a product of being kicked out of good feeding areas," said Allen.

The bears like the birdseed because it is potentially a good source of protein and carbohydrates.

He said bird watchers should be very careful when they hang their feeders. They should be away from trees or logs that the bears can climb. Bears are also attracted to feed spilled on the ground.

"The dangerous thing about bird feeders is we tend to put them very close to the house," said Allen.

"It just brings them really close and creates another potentially life-threatening situation to the bear or to people."

Local bird watchers don’t want to give up their bird watching pastime and they know they have to be cautious with their feeders.

"Of course we want to see the birds but we want to be safe and we certainly aren’t going to invite bears to come around," said Thompson.

"Out of harm’s way the bear has no reason to do anything."

Allen said most bears are in their dens now. This week he peaked in on a yearling fast asleep in a tree cavity on Whistler Mountain with snowboarding tracks all around the tree.

If you spot a bear please call Michael Allen at 604-902-1660 or e-mail mallen_coastbear@direct.ca .

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