Reports of conflicts with hungry bears on the rise in South Okanagan | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Reports of conflicts with hungry bears on the rise in South Okanagan

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More bears are being reported around the South Okanagan this year.

So far in 2021, the Penticton office of the Conservation Officer Service, which covers the Okanagan wilderness from Peachland to Osoyoos, has received 385 calls about bear conflicts compared to 229 by this point in 2020. Those calls include sightings, snacking on garbage and other interactions.

While the number of bear reports are up overall, conservation officer Clayton Debruin said it’s typical for calls and sightings to increase around this time of year.

“Right now is when they like to be bulking up for hibernation,” he said. “When people observe bears within city limits it often serves as a good reminder to mind any kind of attractants around the home.”

Debruin said bird feeders should come down this time of year, and it’s especially important to ensure garbage is being managed properly.

He warned that home and business owners who don’t properly manage bear attractants could be penalized.

Although most people wouldn’t intentionally attract a bear to their home or farm, penalties are necessary to prevent bears from inadvertently getting drawn into conflicts, Debruin said.

“Our goal with black bears in general is co-existence. Early prevention will prevent conflict," he said.

READ MORE: How Kelowna got its name from 'grizzly bear', despite a distinct lack of grizzlies around

Debruin said wildlife laws reflect the views of society, and British Columbians particularly appreciate black bears, so “they are afforded a certain amount of legal protection.”

Bears are a concern for conservation officers throughout Canada, but one issue specific to the southern Interior are the vineyards, as the creatures love snacking on grapes.

“We’ve seen increased calls with vineyards and orchard managers who haven’t protected their crops by installing electric fencing, or taller fencing," he said.

Officers expect farmers to ensure their fencing is well maintained, and to also have air horns or sound cannons to shoo the bears away.

The conservation officer service focuses on the most critical issues by conducting an annual audit of their data and the local problem areas.

“Enforcement is year round, but we do ramp it out in the spring and fall when they’re more food driven," Debruin said.

READ MORE: Kamloops RCMP asking residents to be aware after two bears spotted in town

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