Conservation officers say bear sightings are way up in Nanaimo over previous years and homeowners who leave out garbage and other bear attractants will no longer be let off with warnings.
So far for the fiscal year that started April 1, conservation officers have been called 216 times for bears, compared to just 85 calls for all of 2018, Stuart Bates, B.C. conservation officer, said Monday.
“We do expect an increase in odd years. For 2017 fiscal there was 115, so we’re still well above that,” Bates said. “The majority of those calls are going to be accountable to three bears. There’s one over at Stephenson Point that swam to Newcastle [Island] and is currently back in Stephenson Point. He lives in Linley Valley and he just wanders out once in a while and there was two two-year-olds that came in around Mostar, Jingle Pot and the highway … and they hung out in there all the way down to Coal Tyee Elementary [School] for two months. They were both removed.”
A fourth bear is in the Brannen Lake and Cinnabar Valley areas. None of the animals are causing any trouble, which is what Bates is trying to avoid by patrolling neighbourhoods to ensure people aren’t leaving out fruit or garbage that bears will feed on.
“We’re going to start going out to some of the neighbourhoods where people have attractants out and they’re just going to start getting tickets … we don’t give warnings anymore. It’s $230. There’s no way people don’t know at this point,” Bates said.
A main source of the problem is homeowners who put out their garbage for collection the night before collection day.
“There’s no reason for that. None,” Bates said.
Fruit left laying on the ground also draws bears, but just because one comes and eats someone’s apples, doesn’t mean conservation officers will come out and put a bear down.
“It’s based on its behaviour, not its presence,” he said. “So if he’s getting into your apples, I’m going to tell you to put your apples away. Clean them up and get rid of them and the bear will move on.”
Bates said it only takes a small number of bears to generate a lot of calls and conservation officers were already expecting a higher number of calls this year because of the sow bears’ breeding cycle. Sows raise cubs for about two years and then disperse them to prepare to breed new cubs, which happened this year. That has combined with more bears crossing the Nanaimo Parkway to take up residence within the city.
“These three bears, that we know of and now a fourth one, have gotten on this side of the parkway,” he said. “Generally speaking, in Nanaimo, bears rarely come onto this side of the parkway. They don’t want to cross that road and when you do get bears on this side, we get a lot of calls.”
Bates said there are no plans to trap or put down any of the bears currently being seen in Nanaimo.