A young black bear ( Ursus americanus) tears into a garbage bag looking for an easy meal.

Human conflict with wildlife often occurs when animals act in a way that people may perceive to be dangerous or out of character for the animals. But most of the time animals are behaving naturally with no ill intent toward people. And, whether we see it or not, humans are encouraging the behaviours we’re worried about.

What are attractants?

Food and other resources that can change the behaviour of animals are grouped together under the general label of attractants. This can range from actual foodstuffs, purchased and given to animals, to common items like citronella candles or bird feeders. Attractants can also include industrial waste, BBQ grease traps, native fruit trees and berries and many more items you may never consider.

Removing attractants alone can end real or perceived human conflict with wildlife. Sometimes it requires more effort, such as aversion conditioning (hazing) or environmental design adaption (e.g. closing a gap in a fence). But, generally, if there’s no dinner on the plate, animals will move on and remain focused on natural food sources.

As it is humans who cause the majority of issues that lead to conflict, it is the responsibility of humans to take control of attractants in our communities and make sure they are safe places for everyone to live, including our wild neighbours.