NANAIMO — Vancouver Island black bears are awake and following their noses to a favourite target, according to a BC Conservation Officer Service official.
Central Island acting Sgt. Steve Ackles told NanaimoNewsNOW there have been dozens of human-bear conflict calls this month in the central island area.
The major culprit drawing bears out of the woods is unattended garbage cans, Ackles said.
“Every year we have the same type of issues, people really have to step up," he said. “It's a people problem, not a bear problem.”
Ackles said a recent call resulted in a conservation officer putting a bear down in the Dodds Rd. area in Chase River. He said the habituated bear was walking area streets completely unphased by people, including a group of young kids.
Ackles said it's important to avoid leaving trash cans outside for any longer than they need to be.
“They (people) have to keep their garbage and their green bins in a secured structure, not just a plastic garbage can with a bungy cord, that's just not sufficient.”
According to WildSafeBC, which has an interactive online map of reported human-wildlife conflicts throughout the province, hungry bears in the Nanaimo area have been primarily seen in Chase River. Two other recent reports were made off Harewood Mines Rd. west of the Parkway.
The Qualicum Beach area has seen nearly 20 bear sightings this month, including at least four reports of bears killing livestock north of the community, according to Ackles.
He said while bears attacking wildlife is concerning, such incidents happen only occasionally. He said issues related to garbage cans make up the majority of their calls.
Ackles noted bears can load up on as many calories from a garbage can in five minutes as they can grazing in their natural habitat for eight hours.
“Once they get conditioned to this garbage and this is a reward to them, they start getting protective of that and of course they're desensitized to the coming and goings of people,” Ackles said.
Habituated bears aren't scared away by people yelling, throwing rocks or dogs.
He said black bears are most visible from April to October on Vancouver Island. He noted some bears don't settle in for a winter-long snooze because there are sufficient food sources on the island.
Wildlife sightings in urban areas can be reported to the BC Conservation Officer Service by phoning 1-877-952-7277.
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