A black bear spotted near Fernie in 2020. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Only 15 bear encounters reported in Sparwood in 2020: WildSafeBC

Community coordinator Kathy Murray said the district was tracking well on limiting bear attractants

WildSafeBC community coordinator Kathy Murray has reported a significant drop in bear encounters in the Sparwood area in a presentation to district councillors.

Murray said the number of bear reports in 2020 was “well below average” in Sparwood and the surrounding area, with that reduction being attributed to an abundance of natural food supplies thanks to a good berry crop, and better management of attractants in town.

There were 15 bear calls in 2020 around Sparwood, including seven black bear and eight grizzly bear reports – a mere quarter of the number of reports in 2019 when Murray reported 60 instances of black and brown bears in town and the surrounding area.

Only one black bear was destroyed in Sparwood, on Lower GN Rd. “This bear was very unhealthy and had to be destroyed for humane reasons,” said Murray.

She noted that overall in 2020 there was “a lot of grizzly bear activity,” but “we have chosen to live in grizzly bear habitat.”

Murray said that the District of Sparwood had been a trail-blazer in working to limit bear attractants in town.

“I want to thank Sparwood for setting a precedent to other BC communities and for your commitment to preventing human-wildlife conflict. Over time Sparwood has taken some positive steps forward.

Some of those steps include residential and commercial bear-resistant carts and dumpers which “have resulted in less garbage accessible to wildlife, and a reduction in human-wildlife conflict.”

For 2020, Murray said that the pandemic had created barriers for the WildSafeBC program, but had still managed to carry out some (COVID-compliant) activities and outreach, including outdoor bear spray workshops which were well-attended.

She reported there were only three cases of garbage being left out on the night before collection in Sparwood Heights that were noticed during patrols.

Murray said she was looking forward to being able to go back to community events in the future in order to reach out to more parts of the community.

“All going well I am hoping to get (back) to the schools as soon as I can,” she said, adding that often she could educate up to 300 students at a time.

READ MORE: Bears turn in for winter (soon)

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