Never far away, but hibernating for about six months over the winter, the bears are awake now and ravenously hungry. Actually, bears are always hungry. They have to bulk up to be ready to go to sleep in the fall. They are food processors, attracted by smell and not very picky when it comes to the menu.

Every summer the media tells us numerous bear stories from town or around the Yukon. The situation is often described as a “bear problem” when, in fact, it is a serious situation created by humans who don’t know or care enough to take steps to minimize attracting bears.

Bears have good eyesight and extremely sensitive noses. Their noses bring them into our yards, campsites and picnic areas where we humans have made available food and other smelly items. Not too many years ago, a grizzly bear dug up a horse that had been buried five years before. Nothing was visible, but the bear followed its nose.

Bears are always moving around. In their travels, they pick up scents that their appetites and natural curiosity causes them to investigate.

We humans should do more to minimize bear attractants, including the following:

  • Pet food in the yard, including bird feeders.
  • Compost, including that super-ripe compost can sitting in the sun.
  • Barbeques, which all have food scraps on them.
  • Animal/bird pens (chickens,turkeys) and the feed storage.
  • The unlocked outside freezer. Even locked, a grizzly or large black bear can break it open.
  • Unwashed dishes and cooking utensils.
  • Garbage. Think the summer sun on that black can or bean cans at camp.
  • Food scraps on the ground ie: where children eat.

Bears are also attracted by the smell and sight of things they’ve encountered before. Many campers have been surprised when a bear arrives and goes straight to the cooler. An experienced bear has dealt with a cooler before and remembers the treasures inside.

Bears can also be met while taking your evening walk, with or without the dog. Unless the dog is well-trained and heeds commands, the dog will chase or run away from a bear. Either may provoke the bear.

I am always amazed at the minimal amount of bear spray I see carried by people in Whitehorse and elsewhere while they take their evening walk or exercise the dog. Bear spray is relatively inexpensive and is proven to be effective in deterring bears. Follow the instructions on the can and Google “using bear sprays” for more information.