There have been fewer problem bears reported this season but a conservation officer isn’t attributing that to people managing their attractants.
Ben Beetlestone calls it the quietest season in the 13 years he’s been on duty as one of the two conservation officers responsible for a vast area that includes Greater Trail. Only 10 bears have been destroyed so far when on average 60 and up to 90 are generally killed annually.
A good huckleberry crop may have helped the bruins gather enough food and kept them out of neighbourhoods, but Beetlestone said there is also a lull across the province and no one really knows why.
Unfortunately, garbage continues to be the biggest issue, one that results in bears eventually being killed.
Such is the case in Glenmerry right now, where a bear trap has yet to snatch up to three problem bears.
“There’s really no excuse for someone now in Glenmerry to have a bear in their garbage because they can just drive down their road and throw their bags into the community dumpster at the city works yard,” he said.
“It’s not one person causing the problem, there is enough food source in that entire Glenmerry that they don’t need to go into the (baited) trap because they can just walk down the street and get into someone else’s stuff.”
One of the brown bears spotted has a limp but is otherwise in good heath and mobile.
The bears are causing concern because they have become habituated and have caused some property damage in the neighbourhood which houses an elementary school.
“Most of the activity has been at night but there comes a time when we have to evaluate that there is too much going on in an area for the bears to leave so it’s not fair for you, who’ve done everything right, to have to be concerned for your safety or your kid’s safety because three houses down the road someone is causing the problem with attractants,” he added.
With fewer bears reported, Beetlestone said there has been more time for proactive work.
Managing attractants continues to be the chorus sung by educators but should residence not comply, there are other means of dealing with irresponsible residents.
Conservation officers have the ability to issue a dangerous wildlife protection order, which would order a resident or business owner to secure or eliminate an attractant.
A recent update to the provincial Wildlife Act also allows them to write a ticket for $230 when an individual continues to attract dangerous wildlife to their property and up to $575 when they fail to comply.
“We’re just trying to get people to first deal with their attractants because we have to come in there and kill a bear and if there are still attractants around, then there is still going to be more bears,” he explained. “We have to draw that fine line as to when it has become a public safety issue.”
When a number of people are causing the problem, judgment and discretion are used to come up with the best solution.
Glenmerry is considered one of many travel corridors in Greater Trail with the neighbourhood dividing the hillside to the river. Plus the landfill nearby could further entice wildlife to stroll through.
While this has been a slow year for bears in the books, Beetlestone said it has been an active cougar season since low prey numbers have led desperate cats to go after domesticated treats.
Reports have slowed down for the time being but he expects an increase in the winter when prey concentrate lower in valley bottoms.
“When a bear is in your neighbourhood for garbage and fruit, yes there is a safety issue there for sure,” he said. “But when a cougar is in your neighbourhood, it’s there for you or your pet.”
To report a problem animal call RAPP at 1-877-952-7277.