Not all bears are hibernating yet, and Sooke residents are encouraged to remain vigilant, keeping their garbage secure and their yards free of any attractants.
On Tuesday alone, conservation officers received three problem bear calls.
Wild Wise Sooke, a local wildlife conservation and awareness organization, reported four bears hanging around Maple Road South, Grant, Phillips, Church and Tominny roads, as well as the Whiffin Spit area.
“At Whiffin Spit, there’s one [bear] that’s not going away. These [bears] are consistently called in to conservation services,” said Debbie Read, Wild Wise Sooke coordinator.
Bear complaints are down substantially this year compared to 2015. This year 135 calls made to conservation officers and three bears killed, while last year, 278 calls were made resulting in 11 bears destroyed.
This is not the first time bears have been sighted in December, said conservation officer Peter Pauwels, adding bears have also been observed in Highlands and West Saanich.
“Every year we’ll have a bear or two that stay out longer than the others,” he said.
Pauwels said while it appears unusual, the issue is that there’s still food available, usually as human garbage and compost, and some bears will eat instead of hibernating.
“It’s not that they’re starving to death or anything like that. There’s an opportunity for more food, so they’ll eat more before they go to the den,” he said.
Black bears generally hibernate from November to early May.
Pauwels also warned that under the Wildlife Act, anyone who doesn’t look after their garbage and compost is susceptible to a $230 fine for attracting dangerous wildlife, on top of separate fine that can be issued by a municipal bylaw officer.
– with files from Kevin Laird