Idea to keep wildlife out of trees bearing fruit
Mel Hindle wants to give bears every opportunity to stay alive.
In that aim, Hindle is coordinating a community harvest of Jasper’s fruit trees—an effort to reduce the amount of attractants in town, thereby preempting furry fall foragers from climbing into trouble.
“It comes down to attractant management,” she said.
Every fall, hundreds of apple, chokecherry, mountain ash and other ornamental trees change from attractive to attractant. As the flowers fade and the fruit ripens, bears are lured into town by the tantalizing caloric opportunity.
“Bears are in mass-eating mode this time of year,” Hindle said. “Depending on the species, they eat between 15,000 and 20,000 calories per day.”
Hindle works with bears as part of her job. But the initiative to harvest Jasper’s fruit is a personal mission.
“I’ve lived in a few communities that are in bear country,” she said. “I don’t think we should take the onus off the homeowner, but it seems like something the community should be able to help with.”
Last week, Hindle started matching volunteer pickers with trees. She’s already got a long list of addresses where fruit has historically attracted bears; now she just needs the picking power. And time is of the essence.
“A fed bear is a dead bear, that adage is totally true,” she said.
Last month, Parks Canada had to deal with a repeat backyard burglar. Bear 194, as it was known to wildlife officials, first started showing up in people’s backyards last year.
“They’re masters of opportunity,” said wildlife conflict specialist Steve Malcolm. “This bear was persistently accessing fruit trees. She was in people’s yards everyday.”
Eventually, Parks Canada staff immobilized, tagged and moved Bear 194 out of town. However, this spring, she came back.
“She started near Lake Edith and around the beginning of August had squirted in towards the CN yard,” Malcolm said. “Then she ended up creeping into town at night.”
Using “stressing” techniques (paintball guns, noise), last month, wildlife officials moved her out of Jasper. But then a report came that Bear 194 had been hit and killed by a car as she tried to make her way back towards the townsite.
“It was sad, for sure,” Malcolm said. “You get a little attached to these guys…especially when you’re putting energy into keeping them alive.”
Hindle knows that the best thing to do to keep bears alive is to remove what’s bringing the bears into danger in the first place. But harvesting all of the apples around town—let alone finding a good use for them—isn’t a small job. She’s hoping some keen and creative folks will get in touch with her to help shoulder some of the burden.
“It seems like such a shame to jeopardize the life of a bear for a couple of apples,” she said.
To help remove wildlife attractants, or to report a fruit-laden tree in Jasper, call or text Hindle, 780-931-2322.