Over the course of June, more residents reported seeing bears roaming in the area, some of whom had little apparent fear of humans.
Following a bear encounter east of Burns Lake in late May, Glen Small, with the British Columbia Conservation Officer Service (BCCOS) said the number of bear complaints was normal for that time of year.
But since then the official assessment of problem bear activity has increased.
“In my zone, my staff have handled 20-25 black bears this year until now, which is higher than normal,” as Kevin Nixon Sergeant with the BCCOS for the Bulkley/Stikine Zone told Black Press on June 25.
“Twenty to twenty-five have been killed this season. Thirteen to fifteen have been destroyed in the Burns Lake area. That includes Houston, Topley, Granisle, the Southside, and other areas. Burns Lake is slightly higher than the average, but I’ve seen years like this before. On average throughout the summer and fall months my staff would handle 30-80 black bears in a year.”
No grizzly bears have been destroyed so far this year, Nixon said.
Last year a mama bear and her four cubs were euthanized because the family had been in and around Jamie Baxter Park for over a month and had become aggressive with people.
If a bear trap is set out for a bear, that means the animal has has been conditioned to humans, and the BCCOS has already decided the bear will be destroyed.
Nixon explained there are a number of factors behind higher numbers of bear sightings, including more food sources such as berries and prey.
But the main factor behind problem bears is humans’ lack of caution with potential food soures that attract bears.
“Our biggest issue is we need to educate the public. [Maybe] they haven’t seen bears around for a few years and their barbecues or chicken feed are attracting them. People get relaxed. We’re getting bears that are conditioned to humans.”
There is also a public misconception around relocating bears as an alternative to destroying them.
“We’ll chase a problem bear to the bitter end but come spring time they get a clean slate. For a few weeks in the spring we’ll relocate some. We relocate family groups. This year we relocated a family in Smithers and in Hazelton. In my 29 years with the BCCOS we’ve rarely relocated them.”
The conservation sergeant pointed out that problematic wildlife can be reported by calling the BCCOS line at 877-952-7277 (RAPP).