The number of black bears destroyed in Telkwa last year is the highest it’s been in the past decade, according to a report by local conservation officers.
According to the Problem Wildlife Occurrence Report for Telkwa, in 2014 there were 12 black bears that had to be destroyed and 54 calls about conflicts with black bears, such as sightings or disturbances. While in 2013, there were seven bears were destroyed and 47 reported occurrences.
Conservation officer Kevin Nixon, who compiled the numbers between 2003 and 2014, attributed last year’s increase to dry conditions and a poor berry crop.
“The bears were seeking out whatever they could find for food sources,” said Nixon. “There were no berries in the bush and last year was probably one of the worst that I’ve seen in my 25 years. That combined with the fact that people are becoming far more aware of bears in the community and they tend to phone them in.”
Nixon added that they no longer relocate bears because it’s often unsuccessful, resulting in more problem bears having to be destroyed.
Nixon presented the report to Telkwa council at the meeting last Monday, calling for the village to apply for the WildSafe B.C. program.
The program, which is run by the B.C. Conservation Foundation, would employ one student in the summer to increase awareness around bears in the community.
The person would be responsible for educating people through booths at the fall fair or school and daycare activities, and would also conduct bear surveys to find out where the problem areas are.
At the meeting, council tentatively approved supplying $2,500 worth of funding for the program, as long as they are approved for another grant from the Northern Development Initiative Trust. The conservation foundation will then give them another $8,000 for a total of $10,500 to put towards the program.
“It’s going to be such a great benefit. Even the education aspect, I think there will be more ownership by the community of all the bear issues in the town,” said Nixon.
He also believes if Telkwa adopts the program, it will be a stepping-stone to increasing bear awareness in neighbouring communities.
“My end goal is that there will be enough peer pressure from the Telkwa group so that Houston, Grandisle and Smithers will buy into the program,” said Nixon.
“If we could have each of those communities buy in and there’s $10,500 from each community, we could employ a couple of students each summer to do bear education in all of those communities in the Bulkley Valley.”
To report any conflicts with wildlife, call 1-877-952-7277.