After Saturday’s bear incident, we were curious about where the bruins come from, how many of them there are on Sumas Mountain, and whether the Fraser River poses any sort of obstacle. Here’s what we learned, thanks to the insight of local conservation officer Don Stahl.
Where are the bears coming from?
Most Abbotsford-area bear sightings occur in east Abbotsford, between Sumas Way and the forests of Sumas Mountain, Stahl said.Conservation officers get upwards of 150 calls a year, although one recent year saw that figure tick up closer than 300.
Dozens of bears – probably somewhere between 30 and 40 – live on Sumas Mountain itself. But there’s also at least one neighbourhood bear that lives in west Abbotsford in the north Bradner area, Stahl said. Conservation officers regularly get calls about sightings of that bruin, who hasn’t posed enough nuisance in recent years to warrant relocation.
Can the bears cross the Fraser River?
Yes, bears swim well, and can cross the Fraser without too much trouble. A year or two ago, a mother bear with three cubs was spotted on Matsqui Prairie. A day or two later, Stahl said conservation officers heard about sightings of a mother bear with three cubs on the opposite side of the river. Stahl said it’s likely both sightings were of the same bears.
Are there many border-hopping bears?
Again, yes. Or at least there are some bears who live in the U.S. mountains just south of Sumas Prairie, but head north to chomp on Canadian corn when it ripens.
Should people call the Conservation Officer Service when they spot a bear?
It depends. Stahl said that if you’re in a rural area up on Sumas Mountain, it’s probably not necessary. But if you spot one in a residential area, call the COS’s RAPP hotline (877-952-7277). You’re probably not signing the bear’s death warrant by doing so. In low-risk situations; Wildsafe BC employees may be deployed to the area to inform residents and educate people on how to discourage bears from hanging out in the area.
So what should people do?
Obviously, secure your garbage. But there’s a culprit that many may not think of. Bird feeders are called “bear feeders” by conseravation officers, Stahl said. Take those down until November and December. The birds have plenty to eat, and it’s less likely that a 300-pound omnivore will take off with your seed.
Also, pick fruit before it falls on the ground. If you have fruit trees, don’t make it so easy on the bears. (Have you heard the rumour about bears getting drunk on apples? Well, this site suggests that may not be possible.)