Bears habituating to municipal living

Living in the Shuswap, one must be ready to bear the odd bear encounter.

Living in the Shuswap, one must be ready to bear the odd bear encounter.

This goes for urban neighbourhoods in Salmon Arm and Sicamous, as much as for the region’s more rural communities.

Since April 1, the regional conservation office has received 62 bear complaints from the Salmon Arm area, and 28 complaints of black bears in Sicamous.

One of the Salmon Arm calls involved a residence neighbouring a municipal green belt/trail system. Conservation officer Brent Smith said that in early July, a brown-coloured black bear had killed a fawn in the complainant’s yard and dragged the body into the forested area. Smith said the complainant was used to seeing bears, but thought this behaviour unusual.

“It’s not unusual,” says Smith. “Bears are major predators on deer fawns for about a month, a month-and-a-half after they’re born. And then deer can run pretty good. And then the bears get distracted by other food items – the berries are ripening and cherries.”

The Shuswap is known to have a healthy bear population. Smith says the Sunnybrae-Canoe Point Road has been the most active area around Salmon Arm. But there have also been issues in Sicamous with bears roaming in residential areas.

Smith says two had to be dispatched this year, one by his office and the other by the RCMP. He says the majority of complaints, however, have been sightings.

With tree fruit/apple season coming on, Smith expects there will be another rash of bear complaints, noting he’s convinced there are a number of bears that have simply taken up residence in the municipal areas, especially Salmon Arm, where there is plenty of greenbelts to provide ample cover, as well as plenty of food and water. Other bears, he suggests, come down from the higher elevations – especially when there’s a need for food.

“A lot of it depends on what the berry crop is like,” he says. “Issues with bears tend to be more pronounced in drought years because there’s a lack of natural foods up in the high country… If that’s a good crop, we’ll have minimum bear issues.”

Smith says there’s always going to be some conflict between humans and bears, “that’s just the way things are.” But he and the province’s BearAware program recommend taking precautions to limit conflict, such as removing attractants like fallen fruit, piled grass clippings and bird feeders, using bear-proof waste bins and following recommended composting guidelines, which can be found at http://www.bearaware.bc.ca.

 

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