Conservation officers in the Cariboo region are reminding the public to be vigilant with garbage because the number of bear conflicts have been higher than normal.
“It’s a busy year,” said Jarod Connatty who has been with the Conservation Officer Service in Williams Lake the last four years.
“We are not even dealing with bears that are on the cusp. We are only dealing with bears that are deep into garbage, causing property damage and breaking into structures to access garbage. They are completely food conditioned and habituated — what we call a category one bear.”
Provincially the COS has provided direction this year and is encouraging conservation officers to deliver more enforcement action when it comes to attractants.
“The tolerance level for poor attractant management from the general public is low right now and if we come across individuals who are knowingly leaving their garbage out and it is being accessed by dangerous wildlife, we are issuing orders and/or violation tickets under the new wildlife act for just leaving out garbage.”
The onus has to go back onto the public a little bit because too many bears are being removed, he added.
A ‘number’ of bears have been put down, he confirmed, including a mature adult male on the weekend of Oct. 5 near Haddock Avenue that was closely related to a number of conflicts in that area of town.
“We are dealing with a number of mature bears this year, which is a little bit odd. They are large, large bears.”
Every year at the end of September and October, the number of bear conflict calls increase normally because bears are trying to put calories on for the winter, however, he said bear conflicts started in August and have not stopped since.
“I don’t have a good reason for why they started early or why the conflicts are so high right now, and why the bears have been so consistently active, but they have been.”
Williams Lake has been busier than normal, as well as Quesnel, 100 Mile House and Bella Coola, he added.
In the coming weeks the COS will be working with Amber Greg, local Wildsafe BC co-ordinator, and conducting bear attractant inspections in some neighbourhoods surrounding Williams Lake.
If people are putting garbage out the night before pick up that is left on the road and strewn all over the because a bear got into it, the COS and Greg will be knocking on their doors, Connatty said.
“We will be asking you why that garbage is strewn about?”
For people that have sheds or structures with garbage securely locked up and are doing what they can to keep the bears out, they will work with them, he added.
“We are not here to work against the public, we a here to work with them. We have huge appreciation for people who are doing what they can. Some bears just learn that if they pull a hinge off a door they get a reward.”
— WildSafeBC (@wildsafebc) October 9, 2019
Bear calls tend to ‘peter’ out in November as the bears are starting to den, but grizzlies stay out later, especially in Bella Coola, and it can be December before they den, he explained.
“I like to tell people to carry that practice on through the winter because even if bears are in hibernation it doesn’t mean now I can leave my garbage out. We do have some bears that just are so habituated and used to living in town that they do get up and roam around in the middle of winter.”
The local COS dealt with a handful of bears in January and February 2019, he said.
A cougar had been sighted in the Woodland Drive area earlier this fall, but was caught a week and a half ago.
Anyone with wildlife conflicts is encouraged to call the RRAP-line 1-877-952-7277.