There were fewer black-bear-related complaints in the Castlegar area this year compared to last, but more bears died.
In her year-end report to city council this week, WildSafe co-ordinator Tara Pejski reported 187 black bear complaints to the end of October, out of a total of 232 animal-related complaints. There were also seven related to grizzly bears.
This is how it compared to data from previous years:
- 2021: 317 total calls, 231 black bear and 11 grizzly
- 2020: 227 total calls, 153 black bear and 3 grizzly
- 2019: 163 total calls, 105 black bear and 2 grizzly
- 2018: 252 total calls, 139 black bear and 20 grizzly
- 2017: 243 total calls, 164 black bear 15 grizzly
Pejski said last year’s forest fires had a significant impact on driving animals into communities.
Last year, WildSafe put tags on 292 residential garbage bins and 25 commercial bins that were put on the curb too early. The city also issued nine tickets.
This year, far fewer tags were required (60 residential and 16 commercial) but far more tickets were written (23). Pejski said on their patrols, they tagged an average of two bins a night but there was no particular hotspot. Some people who recently arrived in the city were simply unaware of the rules.
One less encouraging statistic was in the number of bears conservation officers destroyed: nine this year, compared to three last year. Pejski said she suspects a lot of animals who came into city last year and found easy food sources returned this year.
Castlegar earned Bear Smart status in 2021, but also struggled with a pilot program that offered free communal garbage bins. Abuse led to the program ending early.
In September, WildSafe and the City of Castlegar launched a Harvest Match program to pair people who have fruit trees with those willing to pick it and thereby reduce one key bear attractant. Eight people asked to be contacted with opportunities.
Pejski recommended the program be promoted again next year, and that the residential bin tagging program continue, but the frequency of commercial tagging increase.
She also suggested better communicating the role and goals of conservation officers, as some people are afraid to report bear sightings, incorrectly assuming it mean the bear in question will be killed.
Finally, she said information about attractants should not be limited to bears, since the same sorts of things also bring rats, raccoons, and skunks.