Bear encounters with humans ‘extremely high’ on Vancouver Island this year

Bear encounters with humans 'extremely high' on Vancouver Island this year
This trio of bears were regular visitors to the Townsite Road area. (Valerie Bonde)

The lush private yards bordering Nanaimo’s Bowen Park blur the line of where the wild ends and city homes begin, and are common stopovers for wildlife like deer, but Valerie Bonde was still shocked to find three much bigger visitors just steps from her back door in recent weeks.

“Absolutely beautiful. It really was. Especially the little ones following behind. Yeah it’s the wrong place for them to be,” Bonde said.

Sadly the mother bear and the two 18-month-old cubs that Bonde photographed, had become almost constant visitors to her Townsite Road area neighbourhood in May. Lured by what conservation officers say were garbage and compost bins, that CHEK News found sitting out in driveway, after driveway Tuesday, just days after the young family had to be euthanized for becoming habituated to garbage and losing its fear of people.

“It was just very sad to hear that they had been euthanized,” said Bonde.

“It’s a horrible thing to have to do. We try everything. In this case we were ware of those bears. We did talk to everybody that called us, trying to get people to secure their garbage so the bears would leave,” said Conservation Officer Stu Bates.

According to the BC Conservation Officer Service, 2022 has become a record year for bear calls in Nanaimo, and experts are still trying to determine why.

“Bear encounters in and around Nanaimo are extremely high this year. January to May usually results in about 30 calls per year which is normal. This year, we are almost at 250,” said Bates.

That’s eight times higher than last year. One possibility, officials are considering is that bears fertility could be way up after a good berry year. One that Bates said there’s some evidence of in a video just posted to social media, that shows a black bear mother and her five new bear cubs.

“That’s very unusual. And that indicates she was extremely healthy when she went into the fall,” said Bates.

“If you have one really good year in berries in particular, the following year they’ll have more cubs,” he said.

So experts are pleading with people to keep garbage and compost bins in garages especially until berries start luring bears back to the wild later in June.

As both the number of human residents and now wild ones grows on Vancouver Island.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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