North Kootenay Lake Bear Smart Program co-ordinator Gillian Sanders recently demonstrated electric fencing to Creston residents.

Creston’s Bear Aware spreads safety message

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  • Aug. 15, 2011 2:00 p.m.

Good fences make good neighbours, the old saying goes. With the addition of electricity, they can also keep bears (and other wildlife) out, reducing the tensions that often rise when human and wild animal activity intersects.

“I’ve found electric fences to be very effective in protecting my own gardens from wildlife damage,” Gillian Sanders told a group of Creston Valley residents recently, demonstrating how to install the barriers.

Sanders runs the North Kootenay Lake Bear Smart Program and lives on property near Kaslo.

She said the key to designing a fencing system that will deter all wildlife, including bears, is to ensure the electric shock is strong enough to dissuade bears from pushing through the fence. While a light electrical charge is sufficient to keep animals like horses away, bears have thick fur and hides that can insulate them. Correct placement of wires is important, too, she said.

Electric fencing, Sanders said, is effective in protecting gardens, fruit trees, bees and chickens from wildlife.

The provincial Bear Aware program employs community coordinators to work closely with the public, conservation officers, and city or regional district officials to find ways to prevent human-bear conflict. This means educating the general public about managing their attractants, but it may also mean changes to the garbage collection schedule, new bear-resistant litter cans and dumpsters, teaching people to compost properly, giving information regarding electric fencing, community planning to amend wildlife corridors or green spaces, and even helping other organizations manage unwanted fruit. Most people are eager to help find solutions that create safer, more sustainable communities.

“The community of Creston has done an excellent job of keeping their garbage from attracting bears by continuing to put their garbage out the morning of pickup as opposed to the night before,” said Katia Plotnikoff, an Erickson resident who coordinates the local program along with Wynndel’s Gillian Cooper. “It has been proven to be successful because most of the calls for bear sightings or problems have been regarding fruit or chickens. …

“We encourage residents in all communities in the Creston Valley to keep their homes free of any bear attractants like ripe fruit, chickens, and especially garbage, as it has been a late spring and much of the fruit in the valley, including wild bear food like huckleberries, have been later this year.”

The Bear Aware program is sponsored by Columbia Basin Trust, BC Conservation Officer Service, British Columbia Conservation Foundation and the Transborder Grizzly Project. More information can be found at www.bearaware.bc.ca. For local information, contact Plotnikoff and Cooper at selkirkpurcellbearaware@gmail.com.

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