A mother bear and her three young cubs were struck and killed by a vehicle near Ucluelet last week.
“Sadly, there are bears that are hit and killed by vehicles every year. It’s a rare year when it doesn’t happen,” WildSafeBC Pacific Rim coordinator Bob Hansen told the Westerly News on Sunday. “It’s something that everyone should be aware of as a safety risk, whether they’re living here or visiting the West Coast. Bears use the roadside habitat. We do see bears in ditches, we see bears crossing the highway, there’s always a risk.”
He said that risk is at its highest during dark or foggy conditions.
“If there’s reduced visibility for driving conditions, that’s certainly a time to be extra alert and watching the roadsides for animals crossing,” he said.
B.C. Conservation Officer Troy Sterling told the Westerly that the driver did not report the incident to the COS or local RCMP.
“Whoever hit them did not report it to us. Several members of the public noticed the bears off to the side of the road a day or two later,” he said, adding anyone involved in a collision with wildlife should immediately report the incident to the COS at 1-877-952-7277.
“If the animals are suffering at all and still alive, we will go to the scene and dispatch them so that they’re not suffering, or if the sow was killed alone, we could go and capture the cubs and take them for rehabilitation so they could be released at a later time.”
He said it is not illegal to fail to report hitting an animal and there is no investigation underway to determine the identity of the driver.
Hansen encourages all motorists to check out the Wildlife Collision Prevention Program’s website at www.wildlifecollisions.ca for information on how they can prevent wildlife fatalities.
The Westerly News has reached out to the B.C. Conservation Officer Service for more details about the incident and will update this story when new information comes in.
The collision occurred during what has been seen as a successful year for the region’s bear population.
The B.C. Conservation Officer Service has killed one food-conditioned bear in 2020, compared to 14 last year.
READ MORE: Bear trapped and killed near Tofino-Ucluelet
“In comparison to last year, we’re doing so much better,” Hansen said, though he added residents must remain steadfast in securing their attractants through the fall and winter months.
He said bears are spotted every month of the year, though sightings typically decrease dramatically around mid-November.
“It is possible to encounter bears on the roadside every month of the year, it’s just a matter of this wild west coast environment,” he said. “Bears can always go down in the intertidal at any time in the year and flip rocks like they always do and find various sorts of food. I was watching a bear yesterday along a shoreline and it was grazing on grass and sedges and, of course, some of the salmon runs go quite late in the season.”
He added there is currently an abundance of berries available for bears, particularly blackberries and cynamocka, and they are likely taking advantage of that abundance as they prepare for the winter.
“Bears this time of year are really driven on a daily basis to eat as much food as they can and to consume as many calories as they can to build up those fat reserves to get them through the winter, so they’re very actively feeding at every opportunity,” he said.
He said late salmon runs will play a key role in how much food bears have access to in the coming months.
“We don’t know what the salmon returns are going to be this year yet, that picture is still unfolding,” he said, adding bears typically gravitate towards salmon bearing streams in the fall and can seek out unnatural food sources if those streams aren’t as full a buffet as they’re searching for.
“There’s still a need to be vigilant on securing all of the things that might attract bears,” he said. “Last year, we saw a real absence, really minimal returns on quite a number of salmon systems…We saw human-bear issues increase in October and November last year, which are typically months where human bear conflicts decrease dramatically because the bears are focusing on those salmon systems and other natural foods.”
Hansen is currently seeking out funding to increase the WildSafe program’s presence during the winter and he hopes to be operating full-time into November.
He added he has some funding remaining to help residents install electric fencing to protect their compost heaps, gardens and chicken coops.
Anyone interested in learning more about WildSafeBC Pacific Rim is encouraged to reach out to Hansen at 250-266-0311, firstname.lastname@example.org, or through the WildSafeBC Pacific Rim Facebook page.
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