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Bear complaints overwhelming Okanagan conservation officers

Local conservation officers say they are overwhelmed with bear complaints.
Image Credit: Shutterstock


THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - Conservation officers in the North and South Okanagan regions are being swamped with bear complaints as the large animals begin to prepare for hibernation.

While fall always sees an uptick in bear activity, conservation officer Jim Beck says this year is worse than normal.

“It’s crazy out there. We’ve got bears everywhere. We are experiencing one heck of a bear season. To give you an example, yesterday we had 24 bear complaints in my zone, the South Okanagan. I know the boys in the north are run off their feet too.”

Beck says most of the bear complaints are related to improper storage of garbage and black bears that have developed a taste for it, not the fruit-eating orchard bears.

“There’s lots of fruit bears among us who eat fruit at night then disappear. They still show a good fear of people. But there’s something about garbage cans, probably because they’re so easy to get to. When they start hitting garbage cans, something changes in them.”

In the Kamloops region conservation officer Andy McKay says bear complaints are about normal for this time of year with about four to 10 a day.

"We were getting 10 to 15 complaints a day last week of August, first week of September. We average 261 complaints in September. Right now we're at about 150, but there's half the month left."

McKay says officers in his region are forced to euthanize about 12 bears a year.

"Right now we're at eight. If you consider we average 900 complaints a year, it's not that bad. Those are the bad ones too, who are becoming agressive with people, destroying property."

Black bears must gain as much as 30 per cent of their body weight in advance of winter hibernation, leaving them on a constant search for food during the fall. McKay says the continuing drought in the Southern Interior may be affecting food sources in the mountains, forcing bears down into the valley as food becomes scarce.

Beck says garbage bears can rarely be rehabilitated and urged homeowners to bear-proof their garbage by storing it properly and reducing the need to euthanize problem bears.  

“Please do something to assist us so we don’t need to kill more bears than we have to.”

To contact the reporter for this story, email John McDonald at or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

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