Yukon officials urge residents to clean their yards as bears prepare to hibernate

Foraging bears will come to your yard for the berries, but they'll stay for the compost.

Bears are fattening up for the winter, which means they're beating the bushes for food, including berries, compost, dog food or any other food sources that tend to be found in people's yards, say Yukon wildlife officials.

"I had a conservation officer say, 'yeah I had to go to five different houses [in one day], five different bears,' all within the Whitehorse area and they were all eating berries on residential property," said Heather Avery, a spokesperson for Environment Yukon.

"They're attracted by the berries. Maybe they stay for the garbage [or] they come back for the dog food and then we've got a problem bear." 

Avery said the department is urging residents to pick any berries growing on their property, in addition to the usual steps of securing garbage, compost and dog food in ways that don't attract bears.

Mathieu Belanger/Reuters

2017 was one of the worst years on record for bear kills in Yukon, with more than 60 destroyed following encounters with humans.

So far this year, a total of 17 black bears and four grizzly bears have been killed by conservation officers or residents. Eight more black bears and two grizzly bears were relocated. Those numbers are closer to normal, and officials want to keep it that way.

"If we do remove the garbage, that is an excellent step towards making not only the community safer for humans but also safer for bears to pass through without getting into trouble," said Heather Ashthorn of WildWise Yukon, which works to prevent interactions between humans and bears. 

"But they will certainly find the next thing. So if you remove the garbage but not the chicken poop, the bear is probably still going to come back to your property."

Avery urged residents who catch bears feeding on their property to stay inside and make a lot of noise by banging pots and pans together or setting off the car alarm. 

"Hopefully it's uncomfortable enough that it doesn't come back. But if it does, make sure that there's nothing for it to eat."