Two residences in Sooke were the latest to be targeted by black bears in a region where bear encounters have become all too common.
First, it was Corrine Paul who went out to her car on Thursday morning to find her car door was open.
After some initial confusion, she soon determined that it wasn’t a thief who had been rummaging through her vehicle – but a bear.
Neighbour Tim Ayres said there were scratch marks on the car door and some other damage that indicated it had been a four-footed thief that had broken into her car.
“Bears are very smart,” said Debb Read, an urban wildlife specialist for Wild Wise Sooke.
“This bear was doubtlessly sitting in the woods and watching. They’ll learn how to open doors and access all sorts of things, just by watching.”
The bears – apparently a mother and her cub – then made their way over to Ayres’ property where they managed to get into a small shed, despite the shed being solidly constructed and secured by several latches.
“I guess they were after the kitchen compost bin I had out there. It was scheduled to go out the next morning, and I thought it was OK given that it was well secured,” Ayres said.
“But once they decide to get in, it’s pretty hard to stop them. They got in and had a real party in there.”
Given that this is the first time the bears have visited these properties, the problem, said Read, likely lies with someone else in the neighbourhood.
“These bears have become habituated, judging from their behaviour. They should be hibernating right now, but so long as they can find food, they won’t,” she said.
“The answer is the same message we’ve been trying to get out over and over again. Secure your garbage and any other food sources that the bears might be able to access. This includes things like pet food and bird feeders and, obviously, garbage.”
Read said her organization is not happy to hear about situations like the one on Thursday morning.
“We now have a bear that’s obviously habituated and she’s teaching her cub the same behaviour. I would predict that within a few months the conservation service will have to set a trap to capture these bears and that could lead to them being destroyed,” she said.
“That’s a real shame. It’s not the bears that are bad. They’re doing what they do naturally. It’s the bad habits of some people who cause the problem.”
Wild Wise Sooke plans to visit the neighbourhood and educate residents on what they need to do and help them identify problems that might be attracting the bears.
As for Ayres, he’s aware of the correct way of dealing with his garbage and pet foods, but sometimes even if one does everything right, it’s possible to have bear problems if a bear is habituated by the behaviour of others.
“I guess it comes with the territory. We have three small kids so we’re just being a little more cautious when we let them out to play,” Ayers said.