Prince George is situated in prime bear habitat. The confluence of the Nechako and Fraser Rivers and the surrounding forested areas, natural ravines, creeks, and greenbelts all provide wildlife corridors for bears and other animals to travel in search of food. For residents living in Prince George and the surrounding communities, this means a higher probability of seeing a bear (or two).
Bears have approximately six months each year in which to consume as many calories as possible to replace the fat stores lost during the previous winters torpor or long winters sleep and prepare for the upcoming winter. On average, a bear can lose 30 to 40% of its body fat over the course of a winter. For female bears, the need to consume food is greater as they may have cubs to feed or they may be preparing to give birth the following year and will require twice as much food as a typical bear.
Bears are opportunistic feeders and very curious by nature. Bears use this curiosity to find food sources and use their impressive memory mapping skills to remember where those food sources are. Given that a bear can remember from year to year when a particular berry patch is ripe, it isn't much of a stretch for a bear to remember when garbage cans in a particular neighbourhood are put out at the curb or which backyard has fruit trees.
When given an option between foraging for 200,000 berries a day or chowing down on a bin full of garbage, (food scraps, meat wrappers, food containers) which is high in calories, it is easy to see why the things we throw away are so attractive to bears. One birdfeeder full of seed, downed in mere minutes, can easily provide the same amount of calories a bear would accumulate spending an entire day at a berry patch. And once a bear has been attracted to a backyard or neighbourhood by garbage or birdseed, the bear will usually stick around and case the place to see what other food sources it can locate such as pet food, compost piles, fruit trees or barbeques.
Unfortunately, the adage a fed bear is a dead bear is true. Once a bear becomes human habituated and food-conditioned, there are few options left for the Conservation Officer Service other than destroying the bear.