How to make your home bear safe

Bear experts say keep your property free of enticing smells, and if a bear still shows up in your home, assert your dominance.

A bear was killed by conservation officials in north Vancouver last week in what local bear experts say should never have happened.

How could this have been prevented? Bears need to be taught boundaries, and humans need to keep their properties free from enticing smells.

The black bear who was euthanized – after a video of him raiding a freezer in someone’s home was viewed millions of times on TikTok – was a mature chap who had developed a fondness for frozen food.

“We know him [also] gotten into a freezer in an outdoor shed,” says Christine Miller of the North Shore Black Bear Society, adding that once a bear has become accustomed to this type of food source, it’s difficult to break it. The bear likely found some other freezers in carports, she said.

Another mistake in this case was filming the video. According to Miller, people should resist the temptation to pull out their phones and instead focus on being assertive and telling the bear to buzz down.

If everyone does their part to make their homes less attractive to bears, there will be fewer sad stories like these to tell.

How to bear-proof your home:

Get rid of smells

The main attraction for bears is tantalizing smells. Edible items top the list, but scents like leftover bear spray (don’t spray your property with that stuff) can also become attractants.

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That also means picking your fruit trees early, storing your pet food indoors, and keeping your grill clean — which includes emptying your grease trap.

Freezers should be stored in secure garages or in your home.

An exception, Miller said, are pine scents. She recommends cleaning your trash cans with a pine-scented cleaner.

Miller, who keeps her North Van yard very clean, said bears have never been on her property. “You just walk past the fence.”

Store and maintain your containers properly

The Conservation Officer Service said the main attractant for forage-motivated bears is improperly stored containers.

Don’t leave them unlocked and loose in your garden. It’s best to keep them in your garage. If this is not possible, secure them so that they remain in an upright position. Because bears typically knock over trash cans to feast on the contents, bungee cords can make it more difficult to tie them to a post.

If your garbage cans have locks on them, like they do in the District of North Vancouver, keep them locked and store them until collection day. A lockdown won’t necessarily stop a determined bear, however.

Keep leftovers out of garbage cans. This is important as rubbish is collected later in the day, often well after the green bin collection in the morning.

Keep meat and fish waste in your freezer and only put it in the green bin on collection day. Other leftovers should be wrapped in newspaper (a great way to recycle an old copy of the North Shore News) and separated with yard waste.

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A reminder that under the Wildlife Act, people who dispose of their litter improperly face a $230 fine.

Teach bears to stay off your property

If a bear shows up on your doorstep: “Don’t take out your phone,” Miller said. “You must tell the bear he is not welcome.”

Since some bears have become accustomed to noise, turning on the car alarm may not be enough to deter one.

Experts recommend that you assert your dominance. Stand up and tell the bear in a loud voice to go. If that doesn’t work, you can throw small rocks or even water balloons at it.

To prevent bears from entering your home, keep your door closed. Or you can buy an electrified floor mat.

Ask an expert

Miller said the Black Bear Society is very accessible to North Shore residents.

“We appreciate hearing questions from people,” she said. “We are here to support people so that they don’t have problems and fears. We try to make them feel safe and keep it safe for the bears.”

Visit the North Shore Black Bear Society website for more tips. North Van District also has a guide to making your trash and bio carts less attractive to bears and other animals.

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