An increase in bear sightings in Sooke is prompting a reminder for residents to secure their garbage.
“It’s definitely been a busy spring with lots of bear activity,” said Sam Webb, president of the Wild Wise Society. “A lot of the activity is centred in specific neighbourhoods. There seems to be a lot more where new developments are going, which is a little unique.”
The number of complaints is about the same as in previous years, with the cause having more to do with the people who make the complaints than the bears themselves.
Webb said that people not following the basic rules of securing their garbage is the major reason behind most complaints.
“Taking simple steps like keeping their garbage in a secure place like a shed or garage until the morning of the collection really limits bears coming onto your property,” she said. “It’s a simple concept, but it becomes more challenging for people with busy schedules or people with disabilities.”
People dealing with those concerns should purchase bear-resistant garbage containers, Webb added.
“Another attractant people often don’t think about are bird feeders,” Webb said. “They attract bears and feral cats and other animals.”
Unsecured livestock attracts bears as well.
“Electric fences are inexpensive and strongly recommended,” Webb said. “Focusing on these simple steps can make a significant difference.”
Webb also underlined the importance of keeping pets on leashes when hiking.
“You don’t want to distract wildlife or have a bear follow your dog back to you,” she said. “A lot of people want to get that selfie when they see a bear, but the best advice is to back away slowly. If it’s around your home, you should make a lot of noise, so the bear knows it’s not welcome on your property.”
Fortunately, reports of black bears attacking people on Vancouver Island are rare, and following the steps Webb recommends dramatically reduces the risk.
Wild Wise is a volunteer-driven wildlife educational program founded in conjunction with Transition Sooke and partnership with the District of Sooke, the B.C. Conservation Service and neighbourhood ambassadors. The society has about a dozen volunteers dedicated to promoting co-existence between the Sooke community and its wildlife neighbours.
If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Webb at firstname.lastname@example.org.