With a record number of bear-related calls to the B.C. Conservation Officer Service this month, Sooke residents are a little spooked and on the defensive, but if they feel they’ve got it bad, Yogi’s got it a lot worse.
Let’s put it this way: if a bear becomes habituated to an urban environment due to easy access to garbage or human-sourced food, the bear is almost always guaranteed a sad and pointless death: either due to starvation, or by the hands of a less-than-riveted conservation officer who has no other choice but to put the bear down due to its imminent danger to the public.
Still, 50 calls since Sept. 1 shows otherwise, so are there more bears out there?
“Not necessarily,” said Debbie Read, coordinator of Wild Wise Sooke, adding 300 to 500 bear calls is common in Sooke.
What hasn’t been so common was the hot and dry summer, which, as Read said, has disrupted the rhythm of how bears feed themselves.
“We had a very warm summer, so berries and skunk cabbages ripened early this year, which gave them [the bears] plenty of food up in the hills, but when everything started drying up and that food source was depleted, then they started coming down here,” she said.
And since fruit trees are still ripening and berries are plentiful in town, Sooke has become an interesting food hot spot. If you add some garbage, it serves as a huge attractant for bears, then you got yourself an all-star bear buffet.
Grant Road and Maple Avenue areas in particular have become favourite hangouts for bears, including the park behind the Thrift Store which once served as natural corridor for these animals.
“People are seeing two or three bears at a time, so what we’re trying to do is get the word out to people so they can better manage their attractions,” Read said, adding that in the last week alone there have been three car accidents in Sooke involving bears.
“We’ve got to clean up our garbage, we need to clean up our fruit, we have to get rid of these attractions, otherwise they’ll just keep coming back and simply won’t want to leave,” she said.
Conservation officer Rick Dekelder added bears have no interest in messing around in people’s yards, other than food.
“Bears are opportunistic creatures, so if they come into an area, they are looking for food, but if they have to work at something, then that kind of forces it to do what they do, which is look someplace else for a more natural source of food,” he said.
Just recently, conservation officers set up a bear trap across the street from Vienna Bakery due to a large bear who moved into the area due to easy access to fruit trees and garbage.
Those interested to learn more about Wild Wise Sooke, please visit wildwisesooke.com or visit the Wild Wise Sooke Facebook page. Those with information or questions can also email Debbie Read at: firstname.lastname@example.org