Conservation officers report huge spike in Lower Mainland bear sightings

With summer not even half over, the B.C. Conservation Officer Service (COS) is reporting a surge in sightings of bears in the Lower Mainland.

Insp. Murray Smith with the COS said officials have already received 3,200 reports of bears in the region since April, 2019.

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For comparison, Smith said the service received just 4,500 reports for the entire season last year.

So we’re closing in on the number of bears that we had reports of for all of last year,” said Smith.

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“And we’re approximately halfway through the bear season, and usually the fall is when the reports start to peak.”

With the increase in sightings has come an increase in the number of aggressive or human-habituated bears the service has been forced to destroy.

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Smith said conservation officers have put down 51 bears so far this year, compared to 81 bears for the entire season last year.

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However, he added that proportionately, the euthanizations make up less than 0.02 per cent of the bears sighted.

We do everything we can to not have to destroy bears, but you know we have to protect public safety,” he said.

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“So it’s really important that we get the calls early so we can go out there and with our municipal partners and WildSafe BC, we can educate, we can do compliance and enforcement on those who choose not to secure their attractants. And hopefully bears won’t have to be destroyed.”

Smith said it’s not clear exactly what’s behind the increased number of sightings, saying it could have to do with bear population numbers or climatic factors and the availability of natural food.

But he said it’s also a reminder for people in urban areas to make sure their trash is secure and fruit trees aren’t tempting the animals.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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