Bears en­ter­ing hu­man en­vi­ron­ments, COs say

The Prince George Citizen - - Front Page -

The B.C. Con­ser­va­tion Of­fi­cer Service is re­mind­ing res­i­dents to brush up on bear safety af­ter a spike in con­flict calls this spring.

Deputy chief Chris Doyle says the service re­ceived 3,826 calls about black bears and 182 about griz­zlies in April and May.

That’s more than 60 per cent higher than the av­er­age num­ber of bear calls for the same pe­riod over the past eight years.

Doyle says con­flicts can range from bear at­tacks to sight­ings in de­vel­oped ar­eas, with ev­ery­thing from charg­ing, ha­bit­ual garbage eat­ing and live­stock at­tacks in be­tween.

He re­minds res­i­dents that it’s illegal to feed bears or neg­li­gently store at­trac­tants like garbage and he points to the Wild­safe BC web­site as a re­source for more in­for­ma­tion.

The cause of the spike is un­known, but Doyle says climate and weather con­di­tions may have meant less food for bears com­ing out of hi­ber­na­tion.

“It’s pos­si­ble the cold, dry spring has led to a poor availabili­ty of new growth for bears to eat as they emerge from the den,” Doyle says.

Bears are com­ing in con­tact with hu­mans all over the province but Doyle says “hot spots” in­clude the Sea-to-Sky re­gion and Metro Vancouver.

He says they have two active in­ves­ti­ga­tions on the Sun­shine Coast, where res­i­dents are sus­pected of feed­ing the bears.

“Al­though the bears may not look healthy, pro­vid­ing food to them is def­i­nitely not help­ful,” Doyle says.

“It could put your­self, as well as your neigh­bours and the bear, at risk.”

In Prince Ge­orge, con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cers have re­ceived 204 com­plaints about black bears and eight about griz­zlies so far this spring.

More­over, a dozen black bears have been put down and 95 per cent of the scat of the bear that was most re­cently put down con­sisted of garbage, says Con­ser­va­tion Of­fi­cer Service Sgt. Steve Ack­les.

“I’m getting re­ally frus­trated with people and their garbage,” Ack­les adds.

“You can’t tell me they just don’t know to put it into a bear­resis­tant con­tainer or a shed or a garage.”

The same goes with people who fail to take down bird feed­ers once the win­ter is over – turn­ing them into an­other draw for bears look­ing for easy food.

He says only bears that are ha­bit­u­ated to garbage will try to break into a shed. Ha­bit­u­ated bears can­not be re­lo­cated, he also says. Ack­les en­cour­ages people to call in bear sight­ings to 1-877952-7277.

“We’re seeing it on Facebook,” he says.

“People are say­ing don’t call the COs, they’re just run­ning out to shoot those bears. Well, that’s the last thing we want to do.”

— with files from Mark Nielsen, Cit­i­zen staff

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