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Living with Wildlife

Managing bear attractants in our garden

The Living with Wildlife column is published monthly in the Rocky Mountain Outlook to create awareness of living with wildlife challenges. We also work with local newspapers, radio and television stations to promote wildlife safety issues through the media on a weekly basis.

So, you are finished your house and now its time to landscape the garden.

Often what comes to mind first are those beautiful flower covered shrubs and trees in the spring. Most are covered in blossom and look spectacular! Who would not want one or more of these trees in their gardens? The problem is that if one does not pay attention you may unwittingly be planting a shrub or tree that in a year or two may attract bears in to your garden. A lot of this flora produces berries and fruit that can be major attractants for bears later in the summer and fall. 

Bears are often attracted to residential neighborhoods by food odors. Once a bear has located a good food source such as the apple tree in your garden, it has the ability to remember that location and return.

Bears will also communicate to other bears (through their scat and scent trails), the location of the food source, and that 'it is a safe place to feed. Soon, several bears could be visiting your property.

Bears in pursuit of an easy meal may damage your trees by literally breaking the branches or the tree itself to get at the fruit. In rare cases, they may cause injury to people. It is important for everyone living in bear country to follow precautions.

Before purchasing any flora for your garden, visit a garden center or read up on the species and see if in fact it does produce fruit. If it does, give it a pass! Bears are known to feed on all species of apple/crabapple fruit, pears, cherries/chokecherries, mountain ash, buffalo berry, dogwood, wolf willow. Do not despair however, for there are many flowering shrubs and trees that can be planted that are fruit free and have beautiful blossoms or foliage.

That being said, you should consider instead trees that are spectacular in fall with gorgeous leaf color changes! Don’t focus on just the flowers in the spring. Larch trees provide a spectacular color change in the fall.

Some to stay away from are: Apple, crabapple and choke cherry trees that produce fruit, dogwood, Buffalo berry, mountain ash.

Recommended flowering trees and shrubs are: Forsythia (Northern Gold variety in a sunny protected location), Flowering almond, double flowering plum, certain chokecherry and crabapple trees that are non-fruit bearing, Lilac and Potentilla.

Use the internet and do a little bit of research. Visit a good garden centre and ask about what they recommend and what can they obtain. Check the following: Do they bear fruit? This is the most important question. If they do then do not use. Then check if they flower, and do they have a good color display when the leaves turn in the fall. This research will benefit us all as you will not be contributing to attracting bears into the community.

WildSmart is a proactive conservation strategy that encourages efforts by all to reduce negative human-wildlife interactions.

We thank our sponsors and the community for their support, we could not do this without you.

Residents are encouraged to report any sightings of bear, cougar or aggressive elk to 403-591-7755.
For all public safety emergencies call 9-1-1.

 

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