Since April 1 of this year, the Conservation Officer Service (CSO) has received approximately 60 reports of bears in the Parksville, Qualicum Beach and surrounding areas.
For the whole east side of Vancouver Island, the CSO has received 178 reports of bears since April 1, 117 of which were reported in the City of Nanaimo and the remainder reported to be in Parksville, Qualicum Beach and surrounding areas.
Stuart Bates, conservation officer for the Central Island, said Whiskey Creek is a “hot spot” for bears. He said so far this year, the CSO has had to put down three bears in the central Island zone—one in Whiskey Creek, one in Port Alberni and one in Nanaimo.
“The one in Nanaimo got into a garage and got food because someone left their garage open. The very next day it was trying to break down the back door of an occupied house at 10 a.m. and was still there when we showed up,” Bates said. “The one in Port Alberni tried sticking its head through the sliding glass door that was partially open, broke the screen in the middle of the day, and when the CO (conservation officer) walked up it didn’t care that the CO was there within 15 yards.”
Bates said the bear in Whiskey Creek had gotten into garbage and began to “aggressively” protect the garbage. He said the bear didn’t show a lot of fear towards him when he showed up.
“We set a live trap, caught it, and usually when you catch a bear in a live trap they freak out when you get close,” Bates said. “Myself and my partner walked up within four feet of the trap, within full view of the bear, and it didn’t even stand up it just laid there.”
Bates said bears that lose their fear of people and begin eating food sources associated with humans, typically cannot be relocated because they’ll either come back, move to another community, or if they’re relocated to the wilderness they may attack campers.
“We did collar a bear last year from the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre and that bear was from Port Alberni. We let it go on Mt. Arrowsmith… three weeks after we let it go it was sitting on a sidewalk in front of the hospital in Ladysmith,” Bates said. “That’s the kind of distances they can travel.”
Bates said on another attempt, the CSO tried to relocate a bear from Port Alberni that was in an apple tree near an elementary school to Nanaimo but it returned to the same tree two weeks later.
“We already knew from past experiences of relocating bears that they can come back,” Bates said. “I want to (relocate them) but I can’t. The danger to the public is just too high.”
Bates said people should call the CSO as soon as they spot a bear.
“More than 90 per cent of the calls that we get are dealt with by phone call,” Bates said. “We will phone the people back and say, ‘what did the bear get into? OK, secure your attractants.’”
The number one attractant for bears is garbage, Bates said, but livestock feed, bird seed and pet food is also very alluring to bears.
“It’s really incumbent upon the people, they have to secure their attractants. I can issue fines but I prefer not to,” Bates said.