Todd Carnahan shows map of wildlife calls from Cowichan Lake area. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

Todd Carnahan shows map of wildlife calls from Cowichan Lake area. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

Bear country: Officials want Lake Cowichan to bear down

Conservation officers preaching bear-smart behaviour due to about 100 calls a year from region

It’s time for Lake Cowichan to take bears seriously, Todd Carnahan of WildSafe BC says.

“We’re here today to offer a solution to some of the emerging issues that Cowichan Lake faces…primarily bears getting into trash,” Carnahan, a conservation biologist who has worked for 20 years on the Vancouver Island coast said. “That’s my main focus because that’s 90 per cent of the issues that you’re facing here in Lake Cowichan.”

WildSafe BC [which used to be called Bear Aware] is one program of a suite of programs offered by the British Columbia Conservation Foundation, which also works on wildlife collision prevention.

The BCCF aims to reduce unnecessary calls and emergency type work that conservation officers are required to do “when we let bears down and allow them to become conditioned to [finding easily available food] on our properties.”

“Bears are getting shot because they are attracted into our backyards,” he said. “It’s also a threat to public safety. Our children and our pets are at risk and we also have property damage occurring at a greater rate because bears are getting lured onto our properties.”

Carnahan said he also wants to educate the community so they are “aware of what it means to be a respectful citizen here in bear habitat so that the bears stay safe and that we stay safe.”

Joining WildSafe BC is not a great outlay of cash initially.

“We’re simply interested in establishing a dialogue in hot spot areas like Lake Cowichan so we can focus on getting our resources out there so the Conservation Officer Service can do their jobs.”

The bear problem in the Cowichan Lake area is entrenched, he said, explaining that conservation officers, like Sgt. Scott Norris, who accompanied him to the meeting, can speak of their own experiences.

There is also a wildlife alert reporting program, a database where conservation officers can report in, and where the public can see what’s happening.

“Then we can see that’s a hotspot area, lots of calls clustered there. And I can assure you that Lake Cowichan is one of the hotspot areas of the Cowichan Valley.”

Bears are becoming habituated and once they reach that stage, they have to be destroyed.

“It’s really an 11th-hour situation that we’re in in the Cowichan Valley. Many of us remember in the 1970s going to the dump at night to see the bears. You don’t see bears in dumps anymore but I’m going to tell you that we have bears across the region getting into trash today. It’s the same situation, it’s just more spread out.”

It’s possible for council to connect with the database and get emails with information sent directly to the town, Carnahan said.

People who live in towns like Lake Cowichan have to realize that having what they think is a bear-proof garbage can or owning a dog is not enough to keep bears away from their properties, he said, pointing out that not all garbage cans are bear-proof and many dogs go inside at night.

Norris said that bears are going to be around an area like Lake Cowichan.

“We can coexist with them around but what we don’t want is for them to get habituated to the garbage. It can put our children at risk. I don’t know how many times I’ve had a call about a bear in a school yard. That is one of our higher priority levels: if a bear is in a school yard, we’re going there, despite whatever else we may be doing.”

The CVRD and Ladysmith are already on board with WildSafe, he said.

“It really, really does help get the message out. We pass on the message to Todd, saying, here’s a hotspot community. Please go over there, put stickers on garbage cans, knock on people’s doors, so we don’t have to shoot a bear. I didn’t get into this job to shoot bears. I want to protect bears. I absolutely hate to go home and tell my seven-year-old that I shot a bear. That is not a good day for me.”

He said the conservation service gets 100 calls a year from Lake Cowichan alone about “problem wildlife”.

Carnahan said that thoughtless, and sometimes even foolish behaviour by people is not helping.

Social media posts showing people feeding bears at their homes or campsites are going viral and this is sparking a wave of copycats, which is a troubling trend, he said, urging council to step up and help keep the Lake’s local wildlife safe.

 

Sgt. Scott Norris, of the Duncan BC Conservation office, tells council he doesn’t want to have to kill bears simply because people are thoughtless. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

Sgt. Scott Norris, of the Duncan BC Conservation office, tells council he doesn’t want to have to kill bears simply because people are thoughtless. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

Incidents of crazies posting pictures on social media of people feeding wildlife are going up and up, Carnahan says. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

Incidents of crazies posting pictures on social media of people feeding wildlife are going up and up, Carnahan says. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

Todd Carnahan of WildSafe BC talks to Lake Cowichan town council about the need for a coordinated approach to local wildlife, especially bears. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

Todd Carnahan of WildSafe BC talks to Lake Cowichan town council about the need for a coordinated approach to local wildlife, especially bears. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

Just Posted

Al Kohut, owner of the new photographers GALLERY, checks out Looking Back by David Bradt. The photo printed on canvas is among 50 images featured in the Birds on the Wild Side exhibition showing until July 3. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Photo gallery in Sidney plucks out top bird photos

Birds on the Wild Side show running at the new photographers GALLERY until July 3

A bathtub kitchen garden is part of the lineup for this year’s Teeny Tiny Garden Tour to benefit Victoria Hospice. (Screenshot/Teeny Tiny Garden Tour)
Virtual garden tour for Victoria Hospice features trio of back yards

Online tour is free; calendar purchase and donation options raise money for the cause

The Town of Sidney supports efforts to rename Reay Creek to KELSET, its traditional SENCOTEN name. (Black Press Media file photo)
Town of Sidney signs off on Reay Creek name change to KELSET

Name change does not affect surrounding parkland, but public supports doing so

Google Maps shows significant traffic backups after a crash reported shortly before noon on Father’s Day, June 20. (Google Maps)
Saanich crash closes lane of McKenzie Avenue

Police say there were injuries, traffic is impacted

Hot rods, rad rods, muscle and sports cars spanning the decades made their way in a parade from North Saanich to Victoria on June 19. (Kiernan Green/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Classic cars cruise Saanich Peninsula in advance of Father’s Day

Retirement home residents from North Saanich to Victoria treated to a spectacle of hot rides

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Most Read