Heading into the fall, conservation officers said bears will be focused on filling their bellies by eating off fruit trees before they head into hibernation at the end of October. To avoid the unwanted visitors, residents should remove fruit from trees when it’s ripe. (Black Press file photo)

Highlands sees a record number of bear sightings

Conservation officers reminding residents to lock up garbage

There have been a record number of bear sightings in the Highlands this season, prompting B.C. conservation officers to remind residents to lock up their garbage.

So far this year, there have been 31 complaints about bears between April and September, compared to the previous year when there were just 15 between April and November. Many of the bears were spotted roaming around the municipal hall on Millstream Road and the Skirt Mountain area.

The rise in complaints are likely due to an increase in both the bear and human population, said Peter Pauwels, a conservation officer with the Ministry of Environment, noting one or two problem bears generated roughly half of the calls, with the rest of the complaints scattered throughout the municipality.

Residents failing to lock up their garbage properly is also contributing to the increase.

“There’s a lot of garbage left out in the Highlands,” Pauwels said, adding getting residents to ‘bear proof’ their garbage is a message conservation officers have been trying to get across for years.

“Some people still either don’t think that’s necessary or they don’t want to, I don’t know. We want to focus our efforts on preventing problems rather than trying to remove bears … We don’t like to have to euthanize bears. It’s up to the residents of the Highlands to ensure that doesn’t happen.”

Heading into the fall, Pauwels said bears will be focused on filling their bellies by eating off fruit trees before they head into hibernation at the end of October. He recommended removing fruit from trees when it’s ripe and not leaving it laying around, which could attract the attention of unwanted visitors.

Residents should lock up their garbage by purchasing bear-proof garbage cans, and should be stored inside where a bear is less likely to get into it.

kendra.wong@goldstreamgazette.com