Bear sightings higher than normal this year

The number of bear sightings in the Nakusp area is up compared to this time last year.

Many Nakusp residents have been taking to social media to report sightings of black bears in and around the village.

While sightings in the area are nothing new, the amount of sightings compared to last year seems to be higher, and there is reason for that.

“Right now there seems to be a natural food shortage, forcing bears to seek out food in towns,” said Bree Lillies of WildSafe BC. “Many in the West Kootenay zone are experiencing the same high issue of black bear activity in the communities.”

A natural food shortage means there isn’t enough of the food bears naturally find in the wild when they’re foraging. Normally bears in this area feed on huckleberries during the summer months. This year, it seems as though berries in certain elevations were either spotty or failed to grow, causing the bears to look around for more food.

Unfortunately, they seem to be coming to the village to look for that food.

Here, they’re finding not only fruit trees, but other attractants as well, such as garbage, pet food, compost, even livestock.

In order to prevent any kind of bear conflict, residents should be aware of any attractants in or around their property.

“What we’re asking people to do is manage the attractants on their property,” said Cynthia Mann, Sergeant for the West Kootenay Zone of the Conservation Officers Service. “If they have a bear proof container, that’s the best thing. If they don’t, try to keep it in your house until garbage day or dump day.”

Mann said while some people don’t mind the fact that bears get into their fruit trees or vegetable gardens, they need to be aware of the bear’s behaviour and any potential changes in that behaviour.

One thing to watch for is aggression. If a bear becomes aggressive, it will start huffing, clicking its jaw, or start swaying its head back and forth. These are signs the bear isn’t happy, and they want the intruder to back off.

People should be especially careful around a mother bear and her cubs.

“She might not give any outward signs, but that would be something people should try and avoid, because she is going to be on the defensive with those cubs,” said Mann.

Unfortunately, some bears have become food conditioned, or habituated,and can actively seek out attractants in towns.

Mann said bears that tear apart a person’s garage door to get to the garbage, or push on a door or window trying to get in are the ones that pose a greater risk to public safety, and are the ones conservation officers get concerned about.

In that kind of situation, the general response is for the conservation officers to set a trap and euthanize the bear.

The reason the bear is euthanized is because with the behaviour it displays, it is not a candidate for relocation, and is a risk to public safety.

Last year, two bears in the Nakusp area had to be euthanized, though the circumstances surrounding their euthanization are currently unknown.

If a bear is spotted residents are encouraged to call the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line.

The number for the RAPP line is 1-877-952-7277