Trying to predict what this year’s bear season will look like is as easy as determining how much funding will be in place to run the Rossland Bear Aware program, which includes Trail.
The province decided to spend $357,000 toward 15 B.C. programs of this kind in 2010 but the two-year period has now expired, leaving the B.C. Conservation Foundation back at square one.
But the good news is that Trail and Rossland have committed to spending another $2,500 apiece toward the educational program, designed to prevent and reduce conflicts between people and bears. The type of program for 2012 will depend on whether more funding will come from the Columbia Basin Trust, which ponied up $60,500 last year toward Basin projects, and other sources.
“It was a different focus this year,” explained program coordinator Sharon Wieder. “Last year it was kind of like running around putting out fires because of the bear situation and this year was more of an opportunity to educate people on managing their attractants.”
The cool wet spring helped create a good crop of natural bear forage, which may have led to a quieter season. But Wieder also attributes the number of bears destroyed in 2010 to the fewer bear problems reported last season during May through to the end of November.
Though numbers were not released from the conservation office for 2011, she estimated that about five to six bears were killed in both Trail and Rossland last year, a major decrease from 2010 when 16 were destroyed in Rossland and 13 in Trail.
“The conservation office in Victoria changed the way they do their reporting and we weren’t able to access the information like we had in previous years,” explained Wieder.
The quieter season allowed Wieder to tackle other aspects of the job like aiding Rossland in finally adopting a wildlife attractant bylaw in April, which encompasses not only managing garbage but deal with other attractants like fruit trees. Wieder is now encouraging Trail to follow suit.
“Rossland seems to be a little bit more tolerant when it comes to having bears in the community and this is probably not necessarily a good thing,” she said.
“People may not mind a bear coming in and helping itself to their fruit tree but the reality is if the bear happens to smell something else like garbage, which is more desirable to a bear in terms of calorie count, then they’re going to find that and hang around and eventually become an urban animal that will get killed sooner or later.”
In Trail the attitude is much different, said Wieder. Residents are concerned about safety when it comes to living with bears but show a lack of effort in managing their attractants, which also include bird feeders, compost and fruit trees.
Though newly introduced ideas like the dumpster deputy program, which had volunteers reporting dumpsters that were not managed properly, has helped keep a handle on waste management, Wieder said there is still much work to be done.
As of October of last year, the conservation office that works with Bear Aware, received over 850 bear complaints, with over 250 complaints for the Rossland and Trail area alone. Of these complaints, conservation officers attended to about 35 per cent that were related to aggressive and or threatening bears.
Residents are encouraged to report problem bears to 1-877-952-RAPP