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Drought, fires may be why more bears are being seen in city

Some residents have been reporting unusual wildlife sightings — from bears in various areas of Kamloops to numerous sightings of rattlesnakes on Batchelor Heights driveways.
WildSafeBC bear map
This map shows the number of bear sightings in Kamloops during the past week, as reported to WildSafeBC.

In Kamloops, up to 60 black bear sightings have been reported over the last seven days, according to WildSafeBC.

Some residents have been reporting unusual wildlife sightings — from bears in various areas of Kamloops to numerous sightings of rattlesnakes on Batchelor Heights driveways — and wondering if the forest fires in and around the region could be the cause.

According to one official at WildSafeBC, the answer is “yes,” but there is more to the matter.

Vanessa Isnardy, the provincial co-ordinator for WildSafe BC, told KTW via email that while the forest fires in the Kamloops region may be a factor in unusual wildlife sightings (speaking specifically of black bears), the drought the province has been enduring is a more significant cause for concern, in more ways than citizens may realize.

“Black bears are highly dependent on berries from late summer to fall in order to prepare for winter denning.” Isnardy said.

“With the high temperatures this summer, many of these berries ripened early and some have already shrivelled up on their stems.”

According to Isnardy, in addition to wild berries ripening too early, black bears have also encountered trouble finding wild salmon.

Due to the reduction in spawning, many bears are forced to look for food elsewhere, including in human-populated neighbourhoods.

“It is natural to feel concern for bears,” Isnardy said, explaining that some residents may be inclined to leave out fresh water or not remove ripening fruit from their fruit-bearing trees.

“Unfortunately, we are doing a disservice to these bears when we allow them to find shelter and food near people,” she said.

Isnardy recommends residents remain diligent and do their part to minimize the risk of a bear encounter.

That includes removing all sources of food for bears and continue reporting sightings or conflicts to the BC Conservation Officer reporting Line at 1-877-952-7277.

According to Isnardy, there are several ways to prevent potentially dangerous situations when encountering a bear.

First, she said, do not approach it.

“Back away slowly and give it plenty of space. Avoid lingering to take a photo,” Isnardy said. Furthermore, keep dogs on leashes and do not allow them to give chase.

In addition, Isnardy strongly suggests teaching young children bear safety as soon as possible.

For more information and tips for dealing with wildlife visit the WildSafeBC website at wildsafebc.com.