Bear complaints on the rise in Burns Lake

Bear populations are at their highest peak in recent years

Burns Lake conservation officers have been busy with bear complaints this season.

In fact, May 2017 turned out to be a record-setting month for bear problems in the Burns Lake area, according to conservation officer Jeff Palm.

“Officers have had to destroy some bears involved in getting into garbage or killing pigs and sheep at residences in the local area,” he said. “It would appear that the mild winter and a bumper berry crop in 2016 contributed to such a healthy bear population.”

According to the B.C. Conservation Service, bear populations are at their highest peak in recent years. Conservation officers destroyed 106 black bears, and four grizzly bears around the province in April and May – the highest numbers of bears killed ever recorded by the ministry.

“We’ll have very busy years and then it’ll slow down again,” conservation officer Simon Gravel said. “We’re probably at the top of the curve this year.”

The number of reports being made to the conservation service RAPP line also doubled to more than 3000 calls in the same time period.

As more cities get on board with bear-smart techniques, like bear-proof garbage bins, Gravel said the population surge is being mitigated. Destroying – or euthanizing – bears is the last option, and the sooner people report a sighting, the likelier conservation services can instead rely on non-lethal techniques, including relocating the bears or hazing – when officers use techniques to chase bears out of neighbourhoods.

Bears getting comfortable and wondering into peoples’ backyards “all start with rewards,” Gravel said, which include overgrown fruit and nut trees and garbage being left out.

The Conservation Officer Service reminds the public that bird feeders should be put away until winter, and garbage and ripe fruit should not be left out to tempt bears. Bear problems can be reported to the 24-hour RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277.

-With files from Ashley Wadhwani