It was a normal Tuesday morning for Sooke resident Louise Paterson, until she was surprised to find that one of her chickens had been attacked and killed by a bear.
“The bear came back twice in the same day,” said Paterson. “It wasn’t afraid of my daughter or her dog.”
Conservation officer Scott Norris said the bear’s behaviour at this time of the year is normal.
“Bears are waking up from hibernation, they are hungry and searching for food,” said Norris. “It isn’t unusual for them to smell the human food and wander into town, especially if people are leaving their garbage out.”
He said if a bear is unafraid of a human, it means it has become habituated to human food sources and buildings.
Norris said a bear’s only concern is to fatten up, and human food scraps is ideal for them because it’s high in calories and easy to get.
“They forget about the berry bush once they start eating human food scraps and that’s the problem,” said Norris.
“They will keep seeking out food and going back to the place they got it the last time.”
Once a bear is habituated to humans, it can become defensive over the food source and that’s when an attack can happen.
“It’s frustrating for us when people don’t put their garbage away because we are the ones that have to come and euthanize the bear if it’s habituated,” said Norris.
“We are just trying to protect public safety and get people to comply with the law, which is that you have to lock up your garbage.”
Norris said some of the best actions people can take towards preventing problems with bears is to lock up any garbage or food scraps, and for those who have chickens, put electric fencing around their pen and lock them up at night.
The best way to protect yourself if you come across a habituated bear is to advertise yourself before going outside, give the bear space, back away slowly, talk to the bear in a calm voice and let it know you are not prey, and report your sighting. Do not ever try and run away from a bear.
If you see a bear in the area, or want to file a report, call 1-877-952-7277 or contact the nearest Conservation Officer Service district office.