South Okanagan sees spike in bear activity

Conservation officers reminding residents to keep garbage securely away from bears

A sow and her cub are captured by a telephoto lens in Kaleden. Conservation officers are encouraging residents to reduce bear attractants.

A sow and her cub are captured by a telephoto lens in Kaleden. Conservation officers are encouraging residents to reduce bear attractants.

A bear sauntering through neighbourhoods in Penticton last week should be a strong visual reminder for residents to reduce attractants.

Conservation officer Jim Beck said a bear has been frequenting the Wiltse area, and he suspects it is garbage that is luring them there.

“Bears are driven by their stomachs, and if there is any form of food available they are likely to continue paying you a visit. If they come by and don’t get any food rewards, chances are they are going to move off on their own,” said Beck. “We are encouraging the public to take precaution with storage of their garbage.”

But Wiltse isn’t the only area that has seen a spike in bear sightings. Beck said there are also issues in West Bench, Okanagan Falls, Summerland, Naramata and Upper Bench.

“We are actually right in the middle of a fairly good bear peak in activity. It is a bit more extreme than what we have experienced in the past and I am not too sure whether it is because of the colder conditions or a surplus of bears. We have been running pretty hard,” said Beck.

Locked bear-resistant garbage containers are available from BFI, or Beck said residents can lock their garbage away in sheds. Reducing odours by rinsing out garbage cans with bleach or dettol solution can also help.

Bird feeders are another source of problems the conservation officers are running into. Beck said birds don’t need additional bird seed at this time of the season, but those who want to hang them up should be bringing them in at night. He also suggests ensuring you clean off barbecues thoroughly after use.

During this spike in activity, Beck said conservation officers have killed 10 bears. Most of those have been bears whose behaviour has changed because they have become accustomed to attractants left out by humans. At least one he can think of in Naramata was a “sickly” bear that Beck described as skin and bones. Another in Summerland was also small and in poor condition searching for food.

“They become a lot more comfortable with people. I have had bears even associating the shape of a garbage container with food, so they are busting open brand new garbage cans with nothing in them just because of the shape. That is when you start getting reports of a really friendly bear walking through the neighbourhood. That is a bad thing for us to hear. When they start doing that in the daylight that likely means it is a dead bear because public safety becomes our primary issue,” said Beck.

Conservation officers will not be running out to a backyard to set a bear trap when there is garbage not being contained in a bear safe manner, he said.

“You are probably going to end up getting a dangerous wildlife protection order from us saying clean up your garbage and secure it,” said Beck. “Do your part, and if it is a persistent bear after that we will take care of our side of things. Generally speaking, relocation is done but it is not that effective, and if it is a public safety issue that bear will be put down.”

Naramata is a traditional area in the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen identified as a bear hot spot. Last year, the RDOS implemented a bylaw restricting residents to placing garbage at the curb after 5 a.m. on pick-up day. This was complemented by an education program in partnership with the B.C. Conservation Foundation and the RDOS Bear Aware community co-ordinator Zoe Kirk. The Bear Aware program offered by the RDOS is the only one in the Okanagan Valley.

“Since that date, only one very unthrifty young bear has had to be destroyed by conservation officers in Area E. The early positive results from Naramata pave the way to expanding that model into other identified hot spots in the region,” said Kirk.

Penticton Conservation Officer Service inspector Barb Leslie said in 2011 they received over 766 black bear complaints in the South Okanagan area, and with the help of the Bear Aware co-ordinator and new bylaw, the community of Naramata resolved its problems. Leslie said the number of black bear complaints in Naramata dropped dramatically from 117 in 2010 to 28 last year.

The Bear Aware community co-ordinator is available to provide information about bear behaviour, managing bear attractants and the reasons why bears are lured into neighbourhoods. For more information on the program or to book a presentation, contact Kirk at 250-492-0237 ext. 4110.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This now empty restaurant beside the Summerland Waterfront Resort will be turned back to its former glory of Shaughnessy’s Cove. Opening in May. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Summerland waterfront is getting a new restaurant

The now closed Local will be turned back into its former glory of the Shaughnessy’s Cove

Bob MacMillan raises a toast to Robbie Burns at the celebration for the 261st birthday of the Scottish Bard on Saturday, Jan. 18. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Explore Scottish culture with new Penticton television series

The Penticton Scottish Festival’s Exploring Scottish Culture in the Okanagan series debuts Jan. 18

A woman wearing a protective face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
115 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths in Interior Health

There are now a total of 4,970 cases in the region

Gorgeous fiery sunset taken from a parking lot on Martin St. on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021 at 4:45 p.m. (Brennan Phillips)
January is producing some gorgeous sunsets

Sunsets and warm weather for the start of 2021

Carol Loiselle filed a discrimination and harassment complaint with the B.C. Humans Right Tribunal in 2018 after working at Windward Software Systems, Inc. in Penticton for eight years. (Google maps photo)
Penticton woman wins part of her B.C. Human Rights Tribunal case

Carol Loiselle alleges she faced years of discrimination, harassment at Windward Software Systems

Brett Forsythe battles it out in a game of singles pickleball on ice at Okanagan Training Rink Thursday, Jan. 7 in support of the Vernon Food Bank. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Pickleball play hits the ice in Okanagan

Rivals battle it out in support of the food bank

  RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media file)
‘Dangerous situation’ inside busy Kelowna store prompts police presence

27-year-old man apprehended after threatening to harm himself inside store

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials says it will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

City of Salmon Arm Coun. Chad Eliason goes public with the information he went to Mexico over Christmas. (Contributed)
Salmon Arm councillor travels to Mexico over Christmas holiday

Politician says he regrets decision and didn’t consider the ramifications

Letisha Reimer died Nov. 1, 2016 after being stabbed at Abbotsford Senior Secondary.
No evidence that killer was in ‘psychotic state’ during Abbotsford school stabbing: Crown

Second day of closing arguments at ‘not criminally responsible’ hearing for Gabriel Klein

Kelowna RCMP precinct. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Kelowna Mountie transferred, fined after pointing gun at another officer

Const. Kristine Roesler argued she handled the gun safely and did it in the spirit of ‘dark humour’

Alan Davidson was sentenced to almost six years for abusing seven boys in the late 1970s and early 1990s. (Canadian Press file)
Full parole granted to former Mountie, sports coach convicted of sex abuse of boys

Alan Davidson convicted of abusing boys in B.C. and Saskatchewan in late ’70s, early ’90s

Salmon Arm Recreation notified the public of a COVID-19 exposure at the Salmon Arm pool on Jan. 14. (Lachlan Labere/Salmon Arm Observer)
COVID-19 exposure reported at Salmon Arm pool

Salmon Arm Recreation became aware of the virus exposure on Jan. 13.

Most Read