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Bears seeking food in backyards

The small bear cub was spotted by Phoebe Dunbar along West Coast Road. - Submitted photo
The small bear cub was spotted by Phoebe Dunbar along West Coast Road.
— image credit: Submitted photo

Sooke resident Darla Banner’s father was having a barbecue at his house on Church Road when an uninvited guest showed up -- a hungry black bear.

He saw the animal from about 10 feet away sniffing at the food when a neighbour’s dog ran over and “gave the bear a nip” that caused the black bear to raise its front legs before retreating.

A couple of days later, a neighbour witnessed a sow and her cubs in the yard, knocking over a part of the fence. Another neighbour on Talc Road saw a bear climbing into their yard as well, she said.

“Jesus, they can’t all be the same bear!”

Banner said she hears people spotting bears at Whiffin Spit on a daily basis, and that they’re addicted to garbage. In particular, by the Stone Ridge estates development on Beaton Road where bears are “getting garbage even though they’re putting it away.”

“I phoned to talk to the conservation officer on Wednesday, and have heard nothing back,” said Banner.

Conservation Officer Rick Dekelver confirmed that calls about bear sightings are up in Sooke over this same time last year, with an increase of about 50 incidents.

“It’s been busy,” said Dekelver, who speculated it could be due to increasing population and summer weather arriving later.

He insisted that the best thing to do in these situations is still to call the conservation hotline, (1-877-952-7277) even if it takes awhile to hear back from an officer.

“We have two of us for the lower Island from Renfrew to Cobble Hill, so this is happening not just in Sooke.”

Despite the limited resources, Dekelver said the call centre filters the messages received in priority sequence and officers will contact residents to work out a management plan.

Some residents have taken matters into their own hands -- for instance, locals around the Stone Ridge area has been knocking door to door distributing brochures on things like how to minimize attractants.

“People bought into it and the garbage disappeared and I haven’t seen any reports of bears in the area, said Dekelver. “The bears (seem to be) going elsewhere to try to find food because there was nothing in the area they were acquiring.”

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