Picking fruit from your trees before it is fully ripe is one step in preventing them from attracting bears. Photo submitted

Picking fruit from your trees before it is fully ripe is one step in preventing them from attracting bears. Photo submitted

Managing fruit trees critical to avoiding human-bear conflicts

From Dave White of Wildsafe BC

By Dave White

We are nearing the time of year where many trees produce fruit. Plums, apples and pears are in abundance in Nelson and, for a short period of time, this creates a massive attractant for rats, skunks, raccoons and bears.

People understand that garbage, for most of the year, is the biggest attractant that brings bears close to people. This can lead to food-conditioned bears. While wild bears tend to avoid humans, food-conditioned bears have become accustomed to people and have lost their natural fear.

When the initial attractant is no longer available, they will seek other food close to people and may cause property damage or even venture into people’s homes. If a bear is surprised or is protective of a food source this can create an unsafe situation for people and the bears. Bears that are a risk to the public are often destroyed as relocation rarely works. Bears are strongly motivated to return to known food sources.

Many people accept or even enjoy bears feeding in their fruit trees. Unfortunately, fruit trees close to people’s homes have the same impact as garbage on bears. Bears end up destroyed regardless of the attractant. Close to 500 black bears and 40 grizzly bears are destroyed in B.C. every year, most as a result of being food conditioned. Ensuring all attractants are secure is the only way to break this cycle.

Managing fruit trees can be tricky, especially when trees become mature and they grow to unmanageable sizes. WildSafeBC recommends the following best practices to manage fruit trees:

• Keep fruit trees pruned and manageable so that they are easy to pick

• Power wash blossoms off the trees in the spring to reduce the harvest

• Pick fruit before it is fully ripe and let it ripen indoors in a secure location

• Install an electric fence, either temporary or permanent, to exclude predators

• Consider replacing fruit trees with non-fruit or nut producing options if you are no longer interested in the fruit

• Work with local fruit-gleaning programs to feed humans not bears

There are some tools that make reaching fruit safer and more convenient, such as using a catcher basket on a pole, made by a number of manufactures. You can also fabricate your own using empty pop bottles and a pole. There are also ways of managing the amount of fruit on a tree, should you enjoy the tree, but not the fruit. In the spring, as soon as the flowers form, you can use a pressure sprayer to blast away the petals on the flowers before the pollinators arrive, preventing the fruit from forming.

A properly installed electric fence has been shown to be a very effective tool in preventing bears and other wildlife such as raccoons from accessing your fruit tree. There is an electric fence cost-sharing program in the Kootenays for residents in grizzly bear habitat. Contact grizzlybearsolutions@gmail.com for more information on this program.

The Nelson Community Food Centre has a harvest rescue program where the fruit is shared between the volunteers, the food center and the owner of the tree. This program is dependant on volunteer availability and if fruit is usable. For information on this program visit https://nelsoncfc.ca/harvest-rescue.

Bears are an iconic species that play a vital ecological role and are important seed dispersers that rival birds and other animals in many parts of the province. Huckleberries, saskatoons, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries as well as many more plants are all species distributed by bears. When bears are destroyed as a result of our reluctance to manage our attractants, we lose not only that animal but the role that animal plays in the environment.

If you wish to discuss any other issues regarding wildlife, contact me by email: nelson@wildsafebc.com or call 250-505-6007. If you are experiencing a conflict with wildlife please call the Conservation Officer Service, RAPP Line at 1-877-952-7277.

Dave White is the Nelson co-ordinator for WildSafeBC.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
36 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The number of active cases in the region is at 366

Sherpas Cinema films Imagination in the West Kootenay. Photo: Jake Dyson
New Kootenay film commission unveiled

The Civic Theatre and Kootenay Rockies Tourism have partnered on the initiative

Old tennis courts in Salmo are going to be renovated thanks to a School District 8 initiative. Photo: Submitted
Salmo tennis courts, skate park to be revitalized

School District 8 is partnering with other organizations on the $135,000 project

Hannah Deboer-Smith (left) and her sister Avery Deboer-Smith are involved in myriad activities in Nelson. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
The women who make Nelson great

We celebrate some of the women who make impacts big and small on our city

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison. File photo
COMMON’S CORNER: Challenging the government on vaccine availability and more

The first of a quarterly column from Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

A Cowichan Valley mom is wondering why masks haven’t been mandated for elementary schools. (Metro Creative photo)
B.C. mom frustrated by lack of mask mandate for elementary students

“Do we want to wait until we end up like Fraser Health?”

(Pxhere)
B.C. research reveals how pandemic has changed attitudes towards sex, health services

CDC survey shows that 35 per cent of people were worried about being judged

Most Read