‘Dramatic increase’: Bear sightings double in B.C. prompting call for better residential mitigation

'Dramatic increase': Bear sightings double in B.C. prompting call for better residential mitigation
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Bear sightings have increased this fall, prompting a call from B.C. conservation officers for better bear mitigation in residential areas.

According to the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, the number of calls it has received for human and bear encounters has almost doubled this year.

“From an average last year around 3,500 to 3,600 complaints in the month of August, we are up to approximately 6,000 complaints for the month of August,” Len Butler, dep. chief for provincial operations, said. “So we’ve seen a dramatic increase.”

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Butler said there are several reasons why there could be an increase in encounters this year, including a rise in both bear and human populations.

But the main reason, he believes, is the weather’s impact on the bears’ search for food.

“I think a lot of the areas, drought has impacted those berry crops and natural food sources, so where do the bears go? They unfortunately come into the urban areas which always have a lot of non-natural attractants,” Butler explained.

He said bears have an extreme sense of smell and are able to pick up a scent from a great distance.

Some attractants include dirty barbecues, pet food and bird feeders.

Butler said cleaning and bringing those inside are great ways to deter bears from backyards.

He added the biggest attractant is garbage.

Andrea Wallace, BC SPCA manager for wild animal welfare, said during this time of year bears are looking to eat as many calories as possible before going into hibernation, adding garbage is high in calories and easy to get.

She said residents should be storing their garbage and compost better so bears can’t access it.

“That means keeping it in a secure location, only putting it out the morning of collection day and also making sure to clean those bins regularly so they don’t get too smelly over time,” Wallace said.

She added residents can also store their compost in the freezer until collection day.

Residents are asked to not report every bear sighting to conservation because sometimes they are just travelling through a yard or street to get to another part of their habitat.

Butler said when a bear starts to linger and rummage, that’s when it should be reported.

“If the bear does not leave and is creating a threat, that’s when you should be calling our Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line and get a hold of us,” Butler added.

Reports can be made to the 24-hour RAPP hotline at 1-877-952-7277 or on the BC Conservation Officer Service website.

Mackenzie ReadMackenzie Read

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