Bear sightings in Duncan prompt warning, educational efforts from conservation officers

Bear Aware BC/Facebook

Conservation officers are urging residents of the Duncan and North Cowichan areas to secure their garbage and any other wildlife attractants after repeated sightings of a mother bear and its yearlings over the past few months.

This week, social media was abuzz with misinformed claims that the BC Conservation Officer Service (BCCOS) had set up traps to capture the bears and destroy them, according to BCCOS Sgt. Scott Norris.

However, Norris says there’s currently no plans to capture the bears. Instead, conservation officers are working to educate residents and are urging people to lock up their garbage and other potential attractants.

“This family group has been in this area in and around Cassino Road since last fall sometime,” said Norris in an interview Thursday.

“We’ve received numerous calls about it, we’ve provided lots of education in the area, we currently have signs up on the road,” he said.

The bears have been spotted along Cassino Road, as well as Skinner Road and Renita Ridge Road, and nearby trails.

Unsecured garbage bins

In a social media post Wednesday on the Facebook group Bear Aware BC – which has since been removed – a photograph showed some young bears on the second-floor deck of a person’s home.

Norris says the yearlings – bears that are older and larger than bear cubs and may be striking out on their own – likely learned that garbage was a valid food source by their mother, and were on the deck looking for something to eat.

He says there’s been no move to capture the bears yet, since the calls that the BCCOS has received so far have not been concentrated in a single place, or in a short period of time.

“We received numerous calls over the past four or five months, but not consistent at one house,” he said.

The calls may appear at one location, and then two weeks later at another location, and then two weeks later at a separate location, he explained.

“As the bear activity escalates we may have to intervene,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can do to avoid having to euthanize these bears.”

He stressed that destroying the bears is a last resort for the BCCOS, and says the onus is on people living in the area to lock up their garbage or secure their bins inside a structure like a shed or a garage.

Education efforts

The BCCOS has been going door-to-door in the community educating people on safe wildlife practices and how to secure attractants, says Norris.

“We’re urging the public to lock everything up,” he said, noting that having a garbage can on a second floor deck or behind a house is not sufficient.

He also encourages people to speak with their neighbours about the issue to avoid any problematic encounters.

Norris says the best thing people can do is “call the RAPP line, update the conservation service for any threatening behaviour and reporting any sightings of bears getting into garbage – and urging neighbours and residents to lock up their garbage all the time.”

People can report any dangerous wildlife sightings to the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line at 1-877-952-7277.

Safety tips about bears, and how to secure your garbage, can be found on the Province of B.C. website.

READ MORE: Duncan family hopes people learn something after video of bear sleeping under deck goes viral

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