If bear complaints lead to the discovery that people are not taking responsibility for keeping bear attractants out of their property in the Cariboo region, the Conservation Officer Service may start issuing warnings that could lead to fines.
The officers have a couple of options, says Sgt. Len Butler.
The first is called a Dangerous Wildlife Protection Order (DWPO). If an officer goes to a residence to respond to a complaint about a bear or any other predator and there’s any type of attractant like garbage, fruit not picked up, and bird feeders, they will issue a DWPO.
Residents will have a certain amount of time to remove the attractant.
If they do not follow the order, the officers will return and issue a $575 violation ticket.
Bear complaints continue to flow into the conservation office, but as of Sunday evening officers have not had to put any more down.
There’ve been a sow and four cubs seen on Richard and Hodgson roads, one on South Lakeside and a little one at Scout Island that don’t seem to be causing problems.
“This is where we live. If a bear is not feeding on attractants, they are not a problem, but for the most part every call we get people are reporting the bears are into garbage and into fruit,” Butler says, adding problems grow when bears stick around and become more than habituated — they start claiming spots and become more aggressive.
Butler has been in Williams Lake since June 2011, but says his coworker, Ken Owens, told him more bears were killed locally three years ago than there have been in 2012.
“There have been some comments made that Ken never had to kill any bears, but that’s not true. He says the bears come in a three-year cycle and three years ago they had a big influx of bears.”
Bears are always going to be something the community will have to deal with, and Butler says not having the Bear Aware program in town baffles him.
“Bear Aware can do some really good work on public education and in the schools. I don’t know why we don’t have it here — that’s a good question,” Butler says, adding there’s a really good Bear Aware program in place in Bella Coola.
“They will do the door-to-door. They will be persistent. We need that help.”
At the end of the season, Butler is going to contact the city and the head of Bear Aware and the Cariboo Regional District to see if there’s interest in establishing a program locally.
Aside from bear complaints, the conservation office is busy with hunting violation complaints and shot and left dead moose.
“We’re really busy,” Butler says.
Presently there are only two conservation officers working in the Williams Lake office; however, a third one will be arriving to fill one of the vacancies on Oct. 1.