During the late spring months, everything emerges from the winter’s sleep and that happens to include bears and cougars. In Sooke there are lots of bears, said Conservation Officer Scott Norris.
“Let’s say there are many bears in and around Sooke.”
On May 28 at the Sooke Potholes a bear came out of the bush and snatched someone’s lunch while they were swimming. It showed itself again and walked along the shoreline, unperturbed by humans.
A couple of bears have been shot this spring and the conservation officers hope that will be it.
“We need the help of the residents of Sooke. We don’t like to euthanize bears,” said Norris.
He said garbage left out in the daytime is an attractant and people are not necessarily doing anything wrong, but they should be aware that bears are out and about and they will carry out garbage.
“There is a higher level of risk,” he said.
Hobby farms and feed left out is also an attractant and once bears become habituated to humans they will come back often. Livestock can be protected with electric fencing and feed safe if it is kept indoors.
He said there are a number of reasons which include the fact that last year was a great year for berries, bears are looking for new territory and often make their way into Sooke looking for garbage.
Most calls to the provincial RAPP (Report All Poachers and Polluters) line and Wild Wise Sooke are about bears.
Debb Read from Wild Wise Sooke said it is time to crack down and fine people who leave garbage out.
“Wild Wise Sooke is not about saving bears, it is keeping our community safe,” said Read. She said there is likely a bear in every neighbourhood and all the calls are about garbage. Information is handed out by Wild Wise Sooke to encourage people to be bear aware and the program is working for the most part. Bears being euthanized is largely due to people’s garbage. Bears are also attracted to dirty barbecues, ripe fruit or easily accessible compost. If bears find food there they will return,
Wild Wise Sooke could use some volunteers to help spread the word. Read said anyone interested in wildlife would be welcome to help out on Canada Day and at the Sooke Fall Fair. Call Read at 250-646-9998.
Cougars have been spotted in the Sooke area and Norris said cougar sightings have been reported but there is nothing particularly active. This is also cougar territory and they are out there whether you spot them or not. Residents are asked to report bear and cougar sightings to RAPP at 1-877-952-7277 or cell #7277. In 2016-17, a total of 129 cougars were destroyed by either the conservation service or others. In B.C., bears deaths in 2016-17 amounted to 602.
Norris said if you see or come upon a bear stay calm, back away slowly and do not run or climb a tree. Go indoors and bring your pets with you and watch until it leaves. Report bears only if they are aggressive or threatening.
If you see a cougar, stay calm and keep it in view. Back away slowly, make yourself as large as possible and never turn your back on a cougar. If a cougar seems interested in you, respond aggressively, show your teeth make loud noises and arm yourself with sticks or stones.