WildSafeBC is heading into a month-long hibernation on the West Coast, but that doesn’t mean residents should be any less diligent about managing their attractants.
Recent reports of a bear hunting for unnatural food sources in a Ucluelet neighbourhood and wolves being spotted a little too close to town in Tofino provide proof that there is no offseason for wildlife.
“For us on the West Coast, any month of the year can be a bear month and you just can’t let down your guard,” WildSafeBC Pacific Rim coordinator Bob Hansen told the Westerly News.
“That bear and the wolves really illustrate we’re sharing our landscape with wildlife every day of the year and that means we need to keep following actions and habits that work to keep the wildlife wild and our communities safe.”
While the wolves spotted around Tofino haven’t caused any reported trouble, Hansen said wolves are heading into their mating season when they are traditionally more aggressive, especially towards dogs.
“It’s definitely a time to be extra cautious and alert watching for signs of wolves in the area and having dogs on leash whenever we go out to the beaches or the trails. That keeps them safe and it avoids a conflict with wolves,” he said. “Dogs are seen as competitors in their territory and not always as potential prey.”
The BC Conservation Officer Service set a trap for the bear in Ucluelet last month and while it remains on the lam, Hansen said its reported behaviour was troubling, as was its ability to access the garbage it became addicted to.
“This bear seems to be more and more proficient at finding and searching out any garbage that wasn’t secured,” he said, adding the easiest way for residents to avoid conflicts with bears is to leave their garbage secured until the morning of pickup.
“Even if it’s well hidden and it’s out of sight, their nose is like their super power, so they don’t need to be able to see it, they can smell it and they will follow their nose.”
READ MORE: Bear trapped and killed near Tofino-Ucluelet
He said outdoor freezers are also prime targets for hungry bears and locks don’t have a successful history of thwarting them.
“I had a case last year where one had three padlocks on it and the bear just ripped the whole top lid off. They’ll flip them upside down, they’ll jump up and down on them, they’ll find a way to get in,” he said. “Keeping a freezer indoors is the way you avoid that kind of conflict.”
He added pet food must also be stored indoors and bird feeders should not be used.
After a rough 2019 that saw 13 bears killed due to human-wildlife conflicts, the local WildSafeBC program doubled in size with Hansen being joined by new coordinator Marianne Paquette who launched the program in Hitacu and Macoah for the first time. The bolstered program correlated with a stark improvement in the West Coast’s attractant management as 2020 saw just two bears killed in the region.
Hansen said a key reason for the drop from 13 deaths to 2 was an increased focus on electric fencing, especially at local campgrounds and resorts, as well as an increased capacity for education.
“We’re making more and more connections and supporting more and more aspects of our communities,” he said.
More information about the program can be found at wildsafebc.com as well as the WildSafeBC Pacific Rim and WildSafeBC Hitacu-Macoah Facebook pages. Anyone who spots a bear, wolf or cougar in town is urged to report their sighting to the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277.