The British Columbia Conservation office said they handled, which can involve killing or relocating, 90 bears in the Bulkley Valley-Stikine area this year. That is three times the yearly average.
Conservation officer Kevin Nixon said this is the result of a combination of factors. At the moment, the black bear population is very high because of three good summers of berry crops in a row. This led to a lot of triplets and twins being born.
Another factor is people have been improperly disposing of their garbage. Bears have gone into towns to feed on garbage and in Smithers, in particular, they come for chicken feed.
One of the requirements for owning a chicken in Smithers is “feed must be stored in such a manner as to not provide an attractant to bears, other wildlife, or vermin.” Nixon said people have not been following this rule and as a result more bears have wondered into town.
“We just find it very, very frustrating because once a bear gets a taste for garbage, or gets a taste for chicken feed, people can secure it after the fact but now that bear is trained and he’s going to rip off a shed door to get at it,” Nixon said. “In a lot of cases that’s what happened.”
Nixon said in addition to properly enforcing chicken feed regulations, implementing bylaws that would prevent people from putting garbage out the night before it’s to be picked up and requiring garbage be securely contained would vastly reduce the number of human-bear conflicts.
“I can show you numerous paragraphs in the human wildlife conflict reports that we get from the public that says right in it, ‘bear getting into my garbage five nights nights in a row what are you guys gonna do about it,’ and it’s surprises us,” Nixon said. “Where is the responsibility of the owners of the property, where is the Town and the Village council sitting on all this.”
Councillor Gladys Atrill put forward a motion last Tuesday, which council voted in favour of, to start an official dialogue with the conservation office regarding the number bear incidents in town involving chicken feed.
“We can through our staff and with the support of the [conservation officers] reach out to people who have chickens in town and just make sure they’re aware and in fact storing the food properly,” said Atrill. “That’s a first step.”
Bears will always be apart of daily life in Smithers because of the numerous trails and the greenbelts around town, Nixon said.
According to Nixon, bears will maraud throughout town during the night and hide in greenbelts in the day. The conservation office has been called to deal with bears in school yards and behind Safeway.
Five black bears were put down in Smithers this year.
If you see a bear in town Nixon urges you to call 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP) or #7277 if Telus is your service provider. If the situation is not an emergency, report the incident online or contact the local conservation office.