A black bear hangs around just outside of Smithers this summer. (Marisca Bakker/The Interior News)

A black bear hangs around just outside of Smithers this summer. (Marisca Bakker/The Interior News)

Bear calls up this year

Conservation gets a lot of calls for black bears

The Conservation Officer Service had a significantly higher number of calls for black bears in the Smithers area for the month of August, compared to the same time last year.

During the past month, the officers were called about black bears 85 times. In 2022, for the same time period, they received 14 call outs. The office also received three call outs regarding grizzlies, last year during the month of August, only once.

Wildfires are pushing bears out of their usual habitat into towns and cities.

The winter snow and ice conditions, coupled with the pace of the spring freshet, caused the ground to be drier than usual once the runoff occurred.

And then there was precious little rain to nourish the flora of the wilderness, and sun-blocking smoke to disrupt the usual growth of just about everything edible out in the fields and forests.

The end result is, a bear’s pantry is just about empty.

“Their whole life revolves around calories and mating,” said Kyle Beuckert, a conservation officer stationed in Quesnel. “We are headed into calorie time. They are actively looking for anything that can contribute to their intake. It has been a bad year in the bush for berries. The wilderness isn’t providing much for food sources.”

Tips to reduce conflict with bears include:

• Do not store garbage outdoors. Garbage can be kept inside a garage or shed if it’s bear proof. Odorous garbage can be kept inside a plastic bag and frozen until garbage day.

• Remove all fruit from the trees in your yard. Fruit can be stored indoors while it ripens. Let friends or neighbours pick your fruit if you are not going to use it. Determine if the fruit trees are necessary or if they are still wanted, if they aren’t, replace trees with non-fruit bearing species.

• Birdseed or suet filled bird feeders will attract bears through the odours they emit. Birdseed and suet are high protein food source for bears. Use bird feeders only in the winter when bears are hibernating, and natural bird food is limited.

If you encounter a bear, remain calm. Slowly back away, talking to the bear in a quiet, monotone voice. Report aggressive or threatening bears to: 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP).

-with files from Frank Peebles