Bear conflicts on the rise throughout B.C.

Ministry of Environment no longer considers translocation a viable option

  • Aug. 3, 2017 9:30 a.m.

There has been a significant increase in the number of black bear conflict reports in British Columbia this time compared to last year.

According to Chris Doyle, the deputy chief with B.C. Conservation Officer Services, black bear-related calls have nearly doubled this year over last year in the province. He said 8,900 black bear conflict reports have been issued to the COS since April 1, compared to 4,900 in the same time last year.

Doyle said many of the conflicts between humans and bears are preventable. Conflicts typically occur when bears become habituated to human habitats or food.

“The COS would like to remind the public to secure attractants such as garbage and fruit that might attract bears, and also, a reminder that it’s an offence under the B.C. Wildlife Act to feed or attract dangerous wildlife,” he said.

Doyle said the main reason for the dramatic increase in bear conflict reports this year is the decreased natural food supply of bears.

“This year, having experienced a colder, wet spring, it’s likely some of their natural food was delayed in ripening. That brought some of those bears into conflict [with humans],” he said.

The increase in bear/human incidents comes almost a year after the provincial government updated its policy for dealing with wild animals that come into conflict with humans. The Ministry of Environment’s policy update removed long-distance translocation of a wild animal— trapping, moving and releasing — as a preferred method of deterring them from human interaction.

Doyle said conservation officers only use translocation under certain circumstances. The COS has only translocated two black bears since April 2017, according to the department’s statistics.

“Translocation is not viewed as a successful outcome for human/wildlife conflict,” said Doyle. “In general, what we see is that the bears will return from translocation or they may not survive in the location they’re taken to. It’s something we use very seldom.”

Instead of translocation, conservation officers should use various aversion methods on wild animals to promote negative associations with humans. These include hazing, rubber bullets, electric shock and foul-tasting chemicals, among other ways.

However, if those techniques are not effective the animal can be put down, in compliance with the B.C. Wildlife Act.

“It’s not something a CO wants to do,” said Doyle, referring to bears being put down. “It’s certainly something we work hard at trying to prevent. But when a bear is destroyed it’s ultimately because a bear has become habituated to a different food condition and is a risk to public safety, causing property damage and also maybe predatory towards livestock or domestic animals.”

In the Comox Valley, a three-year old black bear was put down on July 5 after wandering through the Town of Comox and swimming in the bay. Conservation officer James Hilgemann and members of the Comox Valley RCMP followed the bear for two hours as it made its way into a residential area.

The bear was eventually killed after scampering up a tree.

The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals is a wildlife advocacy group in B.C. Also known as the “Fur Bearers,” the association’s executive director Lesley Fox says that putting down bears should only be considered as a last resort by conservation officers. Her association recently launched a lawsuit against the province regarding B.C’s policy for handling conflict bears. The lawsuit stems from a May 2016 killing of an orphaned bear cub near Dawson Creek by a local conservation officer.

“The Fur Bearers really encourages our conservation officers to exhaust all non-lethal options first and I think that’s what the public also expects,” she said. “I was really sad to hear about the bear that was killed in Comox in July and it’s a story that’s quite common across B.C.”

Fox said there are many measures that can prevent incidents like what happened last month in Comox.

“I think the main question here is, were all non-lethal options exhausted? It’s worth finding out more of the history on that bear and what was done,” she said. “Was education provided to the community? Does the Town of Comox have appropriate garbage receptacles? Could the town have done more to prevent this incident from occurring in the first place?”

For more information on how to be “bear smart,” go to http://bit.ly/2bc6lVo

For more information on the COS program and policies, go to http://bit.ly/2hrS3pi

Just Posted

Twenty-two percent of Bella Coola residents rely on Food Bank

Demand for Christmas Hampers up by 45 families this year

Site C dam goes ahead, cost estimate now up to $10.7 billion

Premier John Horgan says Christy Clark left him no other choice

Verdict to be delivered December 15 for three on trial in Anahim murders

The fates of Christian Craciun, Andrew Jongbloets, and Serena Rhem (Mack) will be decided on December 15 at 10am.

‘I fell asleep’ admits second mate in Nathan E. Stewart fuel spill

The tug spilled more than 100,000 litres of diesel off B.C.’s northern coast

Northwest’s new MRI hits milestone

Stakeholders celebrate 500th scan of diagnostic imaging device

VIDEO: New series takes in-depth look at sexual harassment in B.C.

Black Press takes a hard look at sexual harassment in B.C.

New 28-space daycare centre to open in Hagensborg in 2018

SD 49 will receive $415,698 to create 28 new spaces at the new Hagensborg Daycare Centre

Accused NYC subway bomber expected to face federal charges

Akayed Ullah, 27, was charged Tuesday with terrorism and weapons related charges

Strategy announced for Indigenous cancer care

Various stakeholders have come together to provide a road map from prevention to survivorship

Environmental groups slam NDP decision to continue with Site C

Construction industry, meanwhile, is cautiously optimistic about how the project will look

B.C. Conservatives applaud Site C decision

B.C. Conservatives happy with government decision to proceed

Hwy. 1 avalanche improvements promise less delays

B.C.’s new remote avalanche-control systems near Revelstoke are ready for avalanche season

2017 word of the year: Feminism

Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2017: ‘Feminism’

200 Russians to compete in Olympics as neutrals

The Russian Olympic Committee expects 200 to compete in South Korea

Most Read