Black bears will likely be making more of an appearance in Sooke this fall.

Education key to preventing wildlife encounters

There have been 42 black bear complaints since April, compared to 102 in the same period last year.

It’s been a wild summer in Sooke.

A cougar peeping through windows in Sooke recently left some Whiffin Spit residents on edge.

But conservation officers say that while there have been some high-profile animal encounters this summer, there have been fewer complaints.

There have been 42 black bear complaints since April, compared to 102 in the same period last year. Fifteen cougar complaints have been investigated.

“We’re having less problems with wildlife,” said conservation officer Peter Pauwels, adding a major factor for less bear calls this year has been the abundance of natural food sources in the wild, such as berries.

Just because it’s been a good year doesn’t mean it’s going to continue, and people need to watch out in the next couple of weeks as that food supply dries out.

This is why September and October are always the busiest months, Pauwels said, adding that people should start being more vigilant with their fruit and garbage.

“Locking up garbage, getting the fruit off the trees as soon as it’s ripe, or even before, because bears know where those trees are from last year, and they will be back,” he said.

Cougars, unlike bears, are hunters, not scavengers, meaning they’ll prey on unsecured livestock such as sheep, goats, chickens, and as well as pets, such as house cats.

One slips through the cracks every now and then, such as the cougar that lurked around Whiffen Spit last week.

The cougar is believed to be the same animal captured, tagged and relocated from the Florence Lake area last spring.

“There are very few that get ear tagged and released, so there’s only two possibilities which one it is,” Pauwels said.

Still, a cougar sighting is rare and unusual.

Pauwels pointed out a rumour in another Sooke news outlets stating that an ear-tagged cougar has been seen in the Whiffin Spit area for years is “absolutely untrue.”

If captured, the cougar, a two-year-old male, will not be relocated again.

“We’re only allowed to do that once. With the behavior it’s displaying now, it wouldn’t be a candidate anyway because it’s showing unusual behaviour. It’s walking up to houses, looking in windows. It’s not afraid of people,” Pauwels said.

“Relocation can work in certain situations, but if you have an animal that’s habituated to people, that prefers to live around people, if you take it up in the bush, it’s going to come back.”

Pauwels said the cougar seen in Whiffin Spit is not acting aggressively towards people, but that doesn’t make it less of a concern, either.

“It has no fear of people, so it’s going to live amongst us. That makes it a concern because if somebody was to see it and do the wrong thing like run away, it could actually trigger an attack.”

Sooke also had a brief visit from a wolf earlier in the summer, though Pauwels said there’s been no sightings of the animal since.