A bear and her cub seen near Fernie in late Fall 2020. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Bear sightings above average in Fernie area in 2020

A long and cold spring, less food, more people at home and more hikers could explain the increase

WildSafeBC has reported 92 black bear reports in the Fernie area for the last season, along with another 15 brown bear reports.

Local WildSafeBC coordinator, Kathy Murray said this was an overall increase in the number of reports, which she said could be attributed to a long and cold spring, less natural food available, more people at home and an increase in trail and backcountry use.

“We saw a big increase in a trail use, especially in Heiko’s, which is prime grizzly bear habitat,” said Murray. “Eventually there had to be a seasonal closure for a couple of weeks in mid-August to protect trail users and grizzly bears.”

Murray added that despite the higher number of reports, the number of bears being killed was on a downward trend.

“This decrease could be attributed to good berry crops the last few years, less wind-strewn litter and garbage accessible to wildlife.”

Murray said a combination of gravity locking carts and bear-resistant dumpsters was helping on that front.

Murray also reported that over the prior season, she had done four night-before-garbage-collection audits, and found 22 people had put their carts out before collection, “which is overall really good.”

Murray said that the Bare Campsite Program (BCP) – which was created to enhance the safety of people and bears in the Pacific Rim National Park and had proven successful – had been adopted by WildSafeBC and was being expanded across communities in the province.

The Fernie RV Resort will be participating in the program in the next season with the help of WildSafeBC, while Murray said that a pilot project will be carried out at the Mt Fernie Provincial Park in the spring of 2021 as the BCP was rolled out through East Kootenay parks and at independent campgrounds throughout the area.

“We are hoping to create habits that last a lifetime,” said Murray. The BCP consists of signage, educational material, posters and education aids intended to help families going camping.

READ MORE: Historic ranches, waterfront, trapline part of B.C.’s latest park expansion



scott.tibballs@thefreepress.ca
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