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Huge spike in bear sightings reported in West Kelowna area

A black bear eyes up apples in a residential neighbourhood.
June 09, 2020 - 5:30 PM

Conservation Officers have been ramping up their efforts to reduce human and bear interactions in the province as West Kelowna residents are reporting a huge spike in bear sightings.

More than 40 bear sightings have been reported within last week alone in the West Kelowna area, according to Wildsafe B.C.’s report. The sightings have even prompted a response from Wildsafe BC on Facebook, calling the sheer number of reports within the last week “unusual.” In Kelowna, the number of sightings are mostly in the Myra Canyon Park area, but at 20 are half of the West Kelowna area.

Wildsafe said it's not sure why the reports are up, but it could be more attractants or simply more people at home or in the nearby bush reporting them. 

READ MORE: Employee surprised to find bear instead of customer in Revelstoke pet store

Sgt. Jeff Hanratty, with the Central Okanagan Conservation Officer Services, said he can’t speculate why there’s been a spike of bears in the West Kelowna area specifically, but crews have received a large number of calls around bears accessing garbage and they’re doing enforcement in the area.

“Charges, warnings and dangerous wildlife protection orders are being issued by our officers right now,” he said. “It is a violation of the Wildlife Act to leave an attractant in an area where bears and people can frequent.”

This time of year, there is typically an increase of bear-related complaints compared to other times, and Hanratty said officers have been receiving more complaints than last year.

“Availability of food often plays into this,” he said.

Bear sightings are being reported throughout the province.

Conservation officers are patrolling neighbourhoods to see if attractants are secured through the use of bear-proof bins, picking excess fruit from trees, use of electric fencing and other measures.

"As the COVID-19 outbreak means more people stay home, this creates opportunity for garbage and other attractants to pile up – but also more opportunities to manage them,” chief conservation officer Doug Forsdick said in a media release. “We hope people take this opportunity to assess their properties for potential attractants and ensure they are properly stored. Communities where attractants are managed properly experience fewer human-wildlife conflicts and fewer animals destroyed."

READ MORE: B.C. conservation officers move from education to enforcement to keep bears alive

Conservation officers are targeting areas with a history of bear conflicts as well as communities where unsecured attractants such as garbage, pet food, birdseed and compost have led to problems in the past.

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