Conservation officer checks on a black bear that was trapped in the Cowichan Lake area.

Conservation officer checks on a black bear that was trapped in the Cowichan Lake area.

Bear sightings on the rise

Last week another bear had to be put down in the Cowichan Lake area.

Last week another bear had to be put down in the Cowichan Lake area.

A Youbou resident had a bear rummage through her garbage bins. After she cleaned up the mess and put the bins in her basement, somehow the bear managed to get inside and into the garbage once again.

The bear had to break out of the woman’s basement through a window, according to Conservation Officer Mark Kissinger, but its neighbourhood wanderings did not stop there.

The next evening the bear broke into a minivan, and the following day it broke into someone’s shed.

Kissinger says that there has been a significant increase in bear sightings over the last three months. “It’s always busy this time of year,” he says. “But there has been an increase over the last couple of years.” He says he has had approximately 300 calls between Lake Cowichan, Youbou, and Shawnigan Lake since early March.

Kissinger says he does not like having to put the animals down, and he is constantly setting up live traps to try and catch the bears before they become too habituated. “If people call us early, then we are able to deal with the problem right away.”

Currently there is a live trap set up in the Youbou area. It’s hard to tell exactly where the bears are coming from, says Kissinger. “They come from the forested areas. We count on people to phone in sightings.” This is because, the more calls made, the better the chance there is of he and other conservation officers being able to track the path, behaviour, and approximate age; whether they are cubs, cubs with mother, or mature bears.

Kissinger would really like to enforce the need to properly store household garbage. “We’ve already had to destroy a number of bears. I don’t like having to do that, and it all has to do with garbage. It’s out of hand in some areas.”

Kissinger says he can’t tell people what to do with their garbage, but he does have a few recommendations.

First, make sure your containers are non-accessible to bears. Store them in a shed or in your garage. Next, make sure the containers you do use are bear proof. “Rawlins makes a good one.” You can access these products and order them online by searching in a Google search engine. Kissinger says bins cost between $80 and $100 each.

Kissinger would like to see the residential garbage pick-up increased and more community dumpsters. He feels that garbage left behind by weekend renters or visitors contributes to the numbers of bears seen and their habituation to urban areas. “Garbage management is key.”

To report a bear sighting, call 1-877-952-7277.