Hit by ravaged food supply, B.C. bears move to urban areas
Published Sunday, August 30, 2015 5:56PM EDT
A summer of wildfires and unseasonably dry conditions has ravaged food stocks for British Columbia’s bears, and many are encroaching into urban areas to hunt for food.
While it’s not uncommon to see bears in rural B.C., conservation experts say there’s been an unprecedented spike in bear encounters in and around more populated areas.
In Maple Ridge, a community east of Vancouver, officers have begun laying traps for bears after a spate of sightings. In Kimberley, B.C., a grizzly bear was shot and killed after sneaking through a window to devour a bucket of pet food.
Most recently, a conservation officer was pushed out of his job after refusing to euthanize two black bear cubs that were orphaned after their mother was shot for raiding a home in Port Hardy.
Environmental experts say the trend points to a larger problem. Black bears need about 20,000 calories a day to fatten up for winter, but dried-up berry harvests and reduced salmon stocks mean nature’s food sources are becoming insufficient.
“Those berries aren’t there and they’re not going to put on the weight,” said Todd Hunter, a sergeant conservation officer with B.C. Conservation Service. “The bears are starting to get more active.”
Salmon populations are also down as warm water temperatures and lowered water levels in rivers and streams negatively impact populations.
“We’re hopeful that this is just a one-off, and it’s shaping up to be pretty dire for this year,” said Richard Bussanich of the Okanagan Nation Alliance Fisheries Management.
Without their traditional food sources, bears are being tempted by the smell of garbage. Not only do these encounters put humans in harm’s way, but they may also give bears a greater sense of safety around humans.
“The number one issue that we face is garbage being left out,” Hunter said. “We can no longer have that.”
To curb these interactions, conservation officers are urging B.C. residents to be diligent about safeguarding garbage bins from bears and being cautious about bird feeders, gardens and fallen tree fruit.
With files from CTV Vancouver