Reports of a black bear wandering downtown Victoria are rare for the B.C. Conservation Officer Service (COS), but that doesn’t mean Greater Victorians are off the hook when it comes to bear safety.
On average, the COS receives anywhere from 500 to 1,000 bear calls a year, says Scott Norris, COS sergeant for the South Island, and many are to report the creatures rifling through neighbourhood garbage cans.
“The bears are hungry right now,” Norris says. “They’re going to be roaming around and will follow their nose down into our communities.”
While bears in this area are generally found in more rural locations like Saanich or the Highlands, the Wildlife Act applies everywhere in B.C., Norris points out.
And, an integral part of the Act is making sure residents everywhere are properly storing their garbage to ensure it stays out of certain paws. That also includes pets and pet food, compost scraps, and making sure barbecues are cleaned and stored properly.
Reporting bear sightings to the COS is important not only for the safety of communities, but for the bears as well. Norris cringes at the thought of how many times he’s seen plastic bags in bear droppings, or found plastic lodged in their intestines from unknowingly chowing down on packaging.
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To educate the public, the COS, in partnership with the province and local municipalities, operates Wild Safe B.C., a program that works to hire and train wildlife coordinators. Since its inception, Norris says the number of calls to conservation officers has dropped.
Still, $230 fines can be levied, especially for repeat offenders who don’t lock up their garbage, or are found to be unintentionally feeding bears by neglecting to pick fruit trees on their property.
“This is a human problem, not a bear problem,” Norris says.