Bear activity up significantly this year

"...they’ll probably still be going well into November or until we get some significant snow fall.” ~ Sharon Wieder

This year was all about the bears, and it isn’t over yet.

Bruins are still around seeking food before they curl up in their dens, says the local community coordinator for WildSafe BC.

“Sightings have settled down from where they were the beginning of October,” explained Sharon Wieder. “But given how poor the natural food source was this summer, they’ll probably still be going well into November or until we get some significant snow fall.”

Typically, bears den in the higher elevations when food supply becomes scarce and remain there until snow melts and food starts to grow in early spring, she added.

“It’s an interesting pattern, and the last few years we had a bubble of activity in June.”

Black bear sightings began earlier than usual this year, Wieder noted. Following a quiet period in June and July, sows and cubs were frequently sighted in urban areas throughout late summer and fall.

“It was definitely an atypical year,” she said. “We had a fair bit of bear activity in the spring which is not normal, and then mid-August things kind of exploded again.”

WildSafeBC documented the spike in local bear calls. According to the organization’s data, 47 bear reports from the Rossland/Trail area came in August compared to three in 2014. September’s call volume more than doubled to 76 from 33 last year, then October slowed down with 45 reports compared to 41 in 2014.

Sadly, fewer call outs last month could be related to number of bears killed rather than their return to natural habitat, says WildSafe BC’s provincial coordinator, Frank Ritcey.

“What happens is they (bears habituating urban areas) are destroyed once a level of conflict is reached and the bears become a safety concern.”

WildSafe couldn’t confirm how many bears were killed since spring, but Wieder says the number is much higher than last year.

“I don’t have specifics, and bears have been killed in the last few weeks,” she added, mentioning reports of “wildlife in trap” means a destroyed bear. “But in general, it’s safe to say the number of bears destroyed is triple that of last year.”

The hot and dry summer decimated natural forage early, Wieder explained, noting garbage and garden odours drew a high number of bears to residential neighbourhoods.

“They are attracted to the smell of leftover food,” she pointed out.

“And part of the reason so many bears were in town, and a big one we highlighted this year, is the fruit trees are super loaded. If people don’t manage them, it’s a great attractant.”

Even though bears will soon be in hibernation, people should be thinking about next year and ways they can better manage refuse and bountiful produce.

“Anytime between now and next spring is a great time to get trees pruned and make them more manageable,” she said.

“Or if you don’t want them – take the trees out. Same goes with grapes, because we had lots of reports about that this year, which was unusual.”

The bottom line is food keeps the bears around urban areas, so it there’s nothing to eat, they’ll go away.

“People should talk to their neighbours who maybe aren’t as thoughtful about it,” Wieder suggested.

“If they don’t clean the mess up then you are going to have a bear in your yard as well.”

She maintains the WildSafe BC message about eliminating attractants is getting out to the masses, and backs that up by the increased calls for information about bear resistant garbage cans.

And she has sage advice for local wildlife observers.

“Sure it’s fun to watch the bears,” Wieder said. “But if they are too used to people – then it’s a sure death sentence.”