It’s the time of year when bears are most hungry as they try to fatten up before they hibernate.
But now it’s more important than ever to be vigilant about keeping bear attractions at bay, said conservation officer Sgt. Scott Norris.
The B.C. Conservation Service has investigated 60 bear complaints in Sooke since April 1, with two animals euthanized. Those numbers are down substantially from the previous year when conservation officers received 202 complaints.
“With 60 calls this year, it’s not high, but it’s hard to say what will happen in the next three months,” Norris told Sooke district council Tuesday.
“Bears are trying to fatten up, looking for food before they hibernate; fish aren’t in yet, berries are starting to fail – but everybody’s fruit in the backyard is riping up.”
Norris gave credit to WildWise Sooke and the district for their proactive approach to human-wildlife conflict and conservation.
Norris said last month there was a decrease in nuisance bear reports, with no reports of bears getting into garbage.
The District of Sooke is proactive in its approach to wildlife with the recent commissioning of a Royal Roads University bear hazard assessment, bear-proof garbage containers, and annual funding of Wild Wise Sooke.
Coun. Jeff Bateman acknowledged the success of the program to date. Still, he wondered if the community would benefit more from the Bear Smart Community initiative, sponsored by the B.C. Conservation Officer Service.
The Bear Smart Community program is voluntary on the part of the community. It acknowledges that each community is unique in the conflicts that occur and the opportunities that exist to reduce those conflicts, and includes participation from provincial and municipal governments and residents.
Bateman asked if Sooke should become a Bear Smart Community.
“I think it’s a fantastic initiative for Sooke. I’d welcome it,” Norris said.
“The more notoriety and more education we can get to highlight this with residents, the fewer bears we’re going to have to euthanize down the road,” he said.
Council agreed to add bear-human conflict strategies in a review of the official community plan, which could lead to involvement with Bear Smart.
Several communities in B.C. are members of Bear Smart, including Port Hardy, Port Alberni, New Denver, Squamish, Whistler, Naramata, Kamloops, Coquitlam and Lions Bay.
“The key is working together to try and find ways to solve these problems,” Norris said.
“We have to be smart about how we operate when we’re living in bear country.”