Bear complaints continue, conservation officer says

Bear complaints continue to come in every day to the BC Conservation Office Service in Williams Lake.

Bear complaints continue to come in every day to the BC Conservation Office Service in Williams Lake.

“It’s quieted down compared to a few weeks ago when several bears were put down within the Cariboo region. The cooler weather will help to move them on, but the mountain ash and rose hip bushes are full and the bears are eating those. Rose hips have a lot of vitamins in them so they really go after them and mountain ash, I don’t know if it gives them a high or what, but they eat those. They like oregon grapes too,” Sgt. Len Butler of the Cariboo Chilcotin regional office says.

He also reminds people to pick their fruit, refrain from putting garbage cans out until morning, and keep attractants away from their yards.

On Sept. 25 a parent alerted the Tribune there was a mom and cubs near Mountview School on Thursday evening and on Sunday the bear at Scout Island was swimming in the pond during the afternoon.

The bears are around and will be for another month, Butler says.

On Oct. 1, Jeff Tyre arrived to work at the conservation office in Williams Lake.

“That’s a great help,” Butler says. There had been only two COs in Williams Lake, also responsible as far west as Bella Coola.

There hasn’t been any relocation of bears this season in the Cariboo Chilcotin, other than from Big Bar Park in the summer; however, Butler says the numbers of bears that have been put down are less than other areas in the province, such as the Kootenays.

Late September the BC SPCA Williams Lake Branch posted an article (http://www.spca.bc.ca/news-and-events/news/out-of-sight-out-of-mind-is.html) on its website with comments from BC SPCA animal welfare educator Megan Cant.

Cant says relocation of bears is not always the solution because bears may return to where they originated.

“Bears are highly motivated to return to their home ranges. They represent areas that bears are familiar with and have worked hard to establish. Even when bears are taken hundreds of kilometres away, they may still be able to navigate their way home successfully.”

Bears that have become used to human food will seek it out in new locations and bears may get killed when trying to travel back home, either by hunters or vehicles.

“Research suggests that they may actually remain vulnerable to these mortality sources for weeks, if not, months after release,” Cant says. Cant urges communities and citizens to become more bear smart, something Butler hopes for as well.

In a previous interview, he told the Tribune he would like to see a Bear Aware program established in Williams Lake and once the season quiets down he plans to meet with the City of Williams Lake and the Cariboo Regional District to see if that can happen.

For now, however, his staff is busy because as bear complaints are lessening in numbers, the hunting violation complaints are on the rise.

“It’s always like that,” he says. “People hunt out of season, they don’t have a tag for a specific animal. It could be hunting at night – we get a lot of those calls.”

People sometimes are shooting off road or from vehicles. There are many violations, Butler explains.

The COs try to be proactive and patrol areas to check hunters and ensure they are following the proper rules and regulations.

“It’s such a big area with a lot of hunting going on. That’s a big part of our responsibility. The enforcement of those regulations.”

Moose are sometimes left for dead because hunters don’t have the proper tag.

“Say they had a tag for a bull moose and they shot a cow moose and have made a mistake. They’ll leave the moose. We get pretty excited about that. Not only are they hunting illegally, but they are wasting meat too. Meat that’s really important in these communities. And our moose population as it is, we don’t want to be wasting any of them.”