Alarming broad -daylight bear-break-in trend being seen in every community across the region
The region is seeing an alarming new trend involving the local bear population, with the animals breaking into homes and garages in every community from Kaslo to Trail, according to Conservation Officer Ben Beetlestone.
“We’re getting this calls, not just once or twice, but every week, and in every community in our region,” he said, adding the animals have faced lean years before, but he’s never seen them so brazen and fearless in their search for sustenance. “Not all of the people (whose houses have been broken into) had attractants, either.”
He said even homeowners who have responsibly locked away attractants have seen bears claw through screen doors or enter garages, doing significant property damage in an effort to get at secured attractants (locking garbage bins, freezers, etc.). And it's not the same bears doing the damage, nor the same properties being targeted.
“I bet the bear break-and-enters far exceed the criminal break-and-enters,” he said, adding that, so far, no one has been injured … but the situation remains “scary”.
“August has been extremely busy, not just with more sightings, but with more serious bear/human conflicts,” he said. “And they’ve been broad daylight events, instead of just at night.”
He said this means communities simply must become more vigilant in reducing attractants, which will discourage the bears from coming into town at all. He said harvesting or caging fruit trees is critical.
“We’re probably not going to be dealing with bears in your fruit trees (this autumn), because we’re too busy dealing with bears getting into houses.”
Even Castlegar is seeing its share of such incidences, with two such situations in a single week (see: http://castlegarsource.com/news/bear-perpetrates-two-home-invasions-castlegar-20620#.UD_jN8GPWSo).
Off duty Castlegar RCMP Const. Rob Gardner said he wasn’t frightened at the time, when a bear entered the garage he was working in, but in retrospect, it was a potentially dangerous situation.
“My garage door was open and I was working on the driver’s side of the vehicle at the back – the bear came in on the passenger’s side in the front,” he explained. “He just walked right in, and I didn’t even realize he was there.”
Gardner did, however, notice a young lady slowly drive past looking into his garage, then back up to holler out to him.
“She’s like, ‘there’s a bear in your garage – like, right there’,” he said. “I looked right at him, and he looked right at me – this big fuzzy face with fuzzy ears. I yelled, ‘thank you’ (to the lady), and he sauntered away.”
Beetlestone said cougar numbers are also high this year – an incident in Trail saw resident Angie Prime attacked in her own home, and a hiker in Meadow Creek was attacked by two cougars in a separate incident.
“We’re getting more cougar complaints and livestock problems, too,” he said.
The only predators that seem to be keeping their distance are the coyotes, which tend to prey upon household pets rather than venturing too near human dwellings.
“It’s a bad year for predators. It’s just one of those predator/prey cycles you see, and the predators are peaking,” he said, adding a poor and sporadic huckleberry crop isn’t helping matters.
But the lean pickings aren’t the larger concern – it’s what Beetlestone calls the “brazen” behavior of the bears this year. He urged residents to call the RAPP line (1-877-352-7277) when the see bruins wandering about town.
“Your call may not generate a response from a conservation officer, but call centre staff can offer advice, and the call is logged – it may help us deal with some other, more serious issue,” he said. “A call to the RAPP line is never a bad thing.”
In the meantime, he stressed the importance of Bear Aware behavior throughout the region – anyone wanting more information on how to prevent bear/humn conflict can call Castlegar’s Bear Aware coordinator, Jenny Wallace, at 250-365-8971.