Loads of fruit could be win, win, win for community
Northern Bear Awareness Society President Dave Bakker, picks apples – photo 250News
Prince George ,B.C.- It’s been a very busy few weeks for the Northern Bear Awareness Society in Prince George, as the efforts to have fruit trees cleared of fruit hit a peak.
It’s been a banner year for fruit production in the Prince George area, and that may be good news when it comes to reducing human/bear conflicts in the city limits.
The berry crop in the bush has been abundant, meaning bears don’t have to come into city limits to look for food as they prep for hibernation. “But it’s not a time to let your guard down” says Dave Bakker, President of Northern Bear Awareness, “sightings of bears in the city are down this year compared to last year, and the abundance of berries may be part of the reason, however, there is no such thing as an overfed bear, so it’s important fruit trees be cleared so bears are not attracted to neighbourhoods.”
If a bear should wander into a neighbourhood looking for food and fails to find it, they aren’t likely to come back next year , says Bakker. So clearing trees and gardens now, can go a long way to teaching bears “there’s nothing here for them”.
The Society tried something new this year with its fruit exchange program. In the past, Northern Bear Awareness would accept emails from those who want to give away unwanted fruit and would try to match up the ‘givers’ with those who emailed saying they wanted to ‘take’ fruit. “That process meant one person had to be dedicated to just that task” says Bakker. So this year, they launched a facebook page where givers and takers could link up on their own. That site has turned out to be very popular blossoming from 65 people in the beginning of the year, to more than 450 now.
Another plus this year is the Northern Lights Estate Winery, which will pay the Society per pound of apples delivered. Bakker says the target was to deliver 5,000 pounds, “We are very close to that right now.” Bakker says working with the winery has made the program a win, win, win situation as funds will go to the Society for its basic operating costs, the winery gets locally grown fruit, and most importantly, bear attractants are removed from the community.
(at right, Bakker’s pick up truck is loaded with one day’s worth of freshly picked apples)
5,000 pounds may be just ” a tick bite on an elephant” says Bakker, “This is a phenomenal year, it’s not a normal year for fruit production In the last 6 weeks, I have handled over 10,000 pounds of fruit and that’s one person in a six week period .” He says there are many others who have been collecting fruit on behalf of the Society. Bakker says given the population of the community, the number of trees and this unusually high yield of fruit, it’s not unreasonable to think there could be as much as half a million pounds of apples grown in Prince George this year.
In addition to the fruit delivered to the winery, Bakker says thousands of pounds have also been delivered to the Northern Lights Animal Rescue in Smithers and to a local farm.
“Just because bears have had a good natural feed this year, it’s not the time to let your guard down. This is the perfect opportunity to remove the attractants so that the ones that do come in town, learn, ‘hey there is no food here’ so they won’t come back next year.”