West Kelowna  

Bear-human conflicts spike in West Kelowna

Bear reports rise up to 5x

WildSafeBC is reporting a significant increase in the number of human-bear interactions this spring, including levels up to five times the average for the month of June.

There were 150 reports regarding black bears in Okanagan Westside program area made to the Conservation Officer Service during June this year.

Comparatively, less than 30 reports were made of the same nature in June 2019, and just under 40 in June 2018.

The neighbourhoods of Rose Valley and Shannon Lake experienced the highest number of human-bear conflicts, but other neighbourhoods such as Lakeview Heights and Glenrosa also reported sightings and conflicts.

About half of the reports from the beginning of 2020 to Aug. 31 involve food-conditioned bears, and of the reports that identified attractants, 77 per cent noted garbage as a main factor. 

In light of these statistics, WildSafeBC community co-ordinator Meg Bjordal has addressed a letter to West Kelowna City Council asking for the city to consider undertaking steps to become 'Bear Smart.'

The Bear Smart Community Program is designed and run by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change in partnership with the British Columbia Conservation Foundation and the Union of British Columbia Municipalities.

It is a voluntary initiative focused on preventing human-bear conflicts, addressing the root causes, keeping communities safer and reducing the number of bears that have to be euthanized each year. 

"The high amount of local bear reports this spring is notable because the province as a whole only experienced an average level of reports, and because the fall (not the spring) is typically when we see the most reports in the area," Bjordal says in her letter.

"Given the high levels of human-bear conflict in the community this spring, it is difficult to predict what will occur during the course of this fall for bear conflict levels ... we may continue to see unusual patterns in levels of human-bear conflicts in the community."

Bjordal outlined six steps she is urging the City of West Kelowna to action, including the preparation of a bear hazard assessment, the development and maintenance of a bear-proof waste management sets and the implementation of Bear Smart bylaws.

"The Regional District is working on making bear-resistant garbage carts available to residents, but in order for those bins to be an effective solution, there also needs to be city bylaws that support proper use of the bin," says Bjordal.

She also believes it would be beneficial to replace open garbage cans stationed at city parks with bear-resistant garbage cans, given that garbage plays a significant role in many of the reported conflicts. 

Kamloops and Naramata are among the eight B.C. communities that have successfully attained official Bear Smart status, and more than 20 other communities are actively pursuing the same goal. 

Council will review the letter at their next meeting on Monday, Sept. 28. 

For more information on the Bear Smart program, click here

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