Bear tracks head into a yard in the Bella Coola Valley and right to a cherry tree. Bears have been accessing cherry trees as a food source in residential areas this month. Photo submitted

Communities, officers grapple with explosion of human-bear conflicts in Bella Coola Valley

There have been 50 complaints of conflict so far in July

Human-bear conflicts have increased dramatically in the small coastal communities within the Bella Coola Valley this month, leaving residents and conservation officers scrambling to try and deal with the problem.

“Last year we didn’t even get a conflict call in July. So far this month we’ve had 50 conflict calls,” said Sgt. Jeff Tyre of the Conservation Officer Service (COS), Cariboo Chilcotin Zone.

Tyre confirmed officers already trapped and relocated a sow grizzly and her two cubs this week out of the valley that had been accessing food sources in residential areas.

Officers also put down an old boar grizzly earlier this month in poor condition, with abscesses in its mouth and an infected old wound, while members of the Nuxalk Nation shot two grizzly bears within the community of 4 Mile that they felt were posing a threat to humans.

Tyre wouldn’t comment further on the investigation into the death of two grizzly cubs on the Thorsten Road recently, which the COS said were killed by a vehicle. Residents have said the grizzlies were in fact struck multiple times in a deliberate act to kill the bears, but Tyre would not confirm those rumours.

Read More: Bear cubs likely hit by vehicle, left on road in Bella Coola

He did, however, admit the growing conflict with bears in the valley is a divisive issue.

“It’s a very polarized community,” Tyre said, noting it would be “a lot of guessing” on his part to say what’s causing the sharp increase in bear conflicts.

Last year a man was mauled by a sow grizzly in what was later determined to be a defensive attack. The man had come out of his residence while the bear and her cubs were feeding on cherry trees in the yard. The man did recover but was hospitalized with bite wounds.

Read More: Protection order issued after Bella Coola bear attack

The cherry crop in the valley did come early this year, and the bears are accessing that food source as well as berries and “fish piles” from recent fish runs, a food source for locals, tourists and bears.

In an effort to address the concerns, the COS is running shifts of two to four officers in the valley who are working long hours during the peak times of conflict, which is from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Up until last year there hadn’t even been an COS officer stationed in the valley. Currently there is one conservation officer, Hana Anderson stationed there full-time.

Read More: Bella Coola Valley gets full-time conservation officer

Tyre admits finding the resources to man the valley is “a challenge” and they are pulling from across the province to make it happen.

Having the officers in the valley allows them to respond immediately to reports of conflict, where they have been trying numerous “adverse conditioning” methods to keep the bears away from the communities. These methods include hazing with rubber bullets, bean bags and cracker shells as well as relocating bears, as they did this week with the family unit.

“If necessary we will euthanize bears,” Tyre added.

The areas impacted the most by the human-bear conflicts have been within the Bella Coola townsite itself and the 4 Mile subdivision but there have also been complaints at Hagensborg.

Tyre said the role of COS is to prevent property destruction and to reduce the public safety risk for the public, who have been reception to making changes.

“There are lots of good things happening with attractant management,” Tyre said. “Residents are taking it upon themselves to pick their fruit. Socially and cultural we are slow making changes in a positive manner and we are continuing to move forward.”

Conflicts with humans and grizzly bears in the valley typically heat up in the late summer and fall when the salmon runs are in the creeks and rivers, and tourists flock to the area to view the bears.

Tyre said what that will look like this year will depend largely on what happens with the salmon runs.

Black Press Media contacted the CAO for the Central Coast Regional District for comment however she did not return calls.


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
editor@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Military called in to remove inert practice round found in Quesnel industrial park

A maintenance worker mowing the grass found the round, which turned out to no longer be explosive

Ranch Musings: No-till pasture rejuvenation and sivopasture trials

Columnist David Zirnhelt is hosting a field day Aug. 29 in Beaver Valley

Meet Tour de North cyclist Chris Fedoruk

Quesnel man is a community rider with this year’s Cops for Cancer team

Forestry Ink: Forest tenure changes are occurring throughout the world

Regular columnist Jim Hilton writes about forest tenure and ownership

Quesnel Safeway honours its volunteer shoppers

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Safeway’s volunteer shopper program

Disney Plus to launch in Canada in November

Analysts say latest streaming service may escalate cord cutting

Okanagan bus driver assaulted for asking patron not to smoke

59-year-old in hospital with non-life threatening injuries

B.C. sets rules for ride hailing, same minimum fee as taxis

Larger operating areas seen as threat by cab companies

Two hiking families team up to extinguish fire in B.C. backcountry

Children and their parents worked for three hours to ensure safety of the popular hiking region

Vancouver man arrested after pregnant woman’s SUV stolen, then crashed

Police are recommending charges against a 22-year-old Vancouver man

Elections Canada to assess ‘partisan’ climate change rhetoric case by case

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has said climate change is not an emergency nor caused by human

Unseasonable snow forces campers out of northeastern B.C. provincial park

Storm brought as much as 35 centimetres of snow to the Fort Nelson, Muncho Lake Park-Stone Mountain Park

B.C. log export rules killing us, northwest harvester says

NorthPac Forestry says Skeena Sawmills has plenty of timber

Most Read