Warmer weather brings all kinds of animals into direct contact with urban residents. (Photo: Bearmatters.com)
Summer is for everyone, and don’t forget that includes critters as well.
It’s the season when coyotes are out in the open looking for food to feed their pups, when a new crop of birds start feeding for themselves, when baby skunks and raccoons come out of their nests, and–especially over on the North Shore and in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows–when bears rummage through people’s garbage and run through their back yards.
“I’m getting a lot of calls right now for coyote activities,” Robyn Worcester told the Georgia Straight . She is the urban-wildlife program coordinator of the Stanley Park Ecology Society, and her advice is to never feed coyotes.
Worcester said that it’s best to chase away coyotes, mainly by making noises. According to her, offering food to wild animals makes them comfortable around humans, and the more they get used to us, the more they tend to become aggressive. “Wildlife should remain wild,” she said. “It’s the best thing for them and for us.”
Jackie Ward is the team leader of wildlife rehabilitation for the Burnaby-based Wildlife Rescue Association of B.C. The group prides itself on being the largest urban rehabilitator of wildlife in the province, with its care centre admitting about 3,000 injured, orphaned, and pollution-damaged animals each year.
“We get a lot of calls this time of the year about skunks and raccoons building dens or nests on people’s property,” Ward told the Straight . “Skunks are ground denners; they’ll dig under a porch or garage and have their babies. Raccoons like areas higher up, so they go up attics.”
Ward also said that their group advises people to resist the temptation of picking up fledgling birds on the ground. She noted that it’s the time of year when most young birds leave their nests and “start hopping and fluttering a little” and learn to fly. Besides, according to Ward, the birds’ parents are usually close by to protect them from predators like cats.
“Summertimes, from May to August, are our busiest months of the year,” Ward said. “This time of the year, it’s not unusual for us to get 30 to 40 patients a day coming to our hospital. We’ve taken a lot animals caught by cats, have been oiled, hit by cars, or electrocuted.”
Last summer, the association’s care centre treated two coyotes that had been hit by cars, according to Ward. All animals treated by the group are released back into the wild.
Residents of the North Shore have to deal with more than just cute little fur balls. Living with wildlife there can be a bit dicey.
Four bears have been put down from May to mid-June, says Roberto Cobo, who oversees the Bear Aware program of the British Columbia Conservation Foundation in North Vancouver.
Cobo said that these bears had become “habituated” to human beings and were getting aggressive. “We can prevent conflicts with bears if we reduce attractants by keeping garbage indoors until the day of the pickup, pick fruits from trees before they ripen, and clean our barbecue grills after using them,” he said in an interview. “It’s possible for human beings and bears to coexist peacefully.”
Chris Patrick chairs the North Shore Black Bear Society. He cited the need for North Shore municipalities to come up with regulations on residential-garbage management, particularly on bear-proofing bins.
Patrick cited the case of a mother bear and her two cubs that were trapped and shot last month in North Vancouver. “They never hibernated,” he told the Straight . “They were a problem all winter. They had to die because too many humans refuse to practise easy garbage maintenance.”
Bear conservationist Barbara Murray noted that there has not been a recorded human death from bear attack along the West Coast of B.C. in the past 30 years. “For some reason, our coastal bears are not prone to attack and seriously injure or kill a human,” Murray said. “We want to keep up that record. We don’t want people to do anything really silly.”