Several photos and sightings of black bears in the heart of Sun Peaks’ village last month, many posted on social media, had some residents worried bear activity in the area was on the rise. While one bear was euthanized, Conservation Services said the amount of bear activity in the area was normal for this time of year.
“This was just a case of an individual bear doing something that people haven’t seen before,” said acting sergeant for the Thompson Fraser Zone of the Conservation Officer Service, Kevin van Damme. “As of the third week in August, complaints were at an all-time low with almost no conflicts at all.”
The bear in question had to be euthanized after it became too comfortable in close proximity to humans in the village area.
“We would hope the public would support our professional opinion. When we have to do that, we don’t want to do it. We do it to keep people safe,” said van Damme.
A release from the Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality on September 9 asked for berries be removed from trees in an attempt to discourage bears from becoming too comfortable around humans. “A fed bear is a dead bear”, the release stated, adding that conservation officers would be in the area issuing orders to remove berries.
Van Damme explained trees like Mountain Ash, planted and cared for by residents, are tempting for bears who are simply seeking out the highest calorie foods they can find before they hibernate for the winter.
He went on to say that black bears are unlikely to view a human as a food source.
“The close proximity of a bear with a lot of people can cause some sort of minor defensive contact where someone gets knocked over or gets swatted,” he said, “But the intent is to get away from the person and escape and protect itself.”
Van Damme said bears are rarely relocated, especially during the fall, as the animal’s efforts to return to its home territory will either be successful, making the relocation useless, or become fatal if they travel too far and starve.
Van Damme said the best response to bears entering the village is prevention. Removing berries, fruit, or trees that may tempt bears near your home and securing your garbage can discourage a bear from coming close.
But if you do encounter one he recommends speaking in a firm voice instead of yelling, letting it know you’re there, and gathering small children while you move into a safer place. People walking in and around the village may also choose to carry bear spray or walking sticks in case of a negative interaction.