2008 was a tough year for bears

The year 2008 was a tough year for bears in and around the Revelstoke area. Ten black bears and one grizzly bear were destroyed as a result of conflict. A grizzly sow and two cubs were relocated.

The berry crop this year was strong at lower elevations, but poor higher up in the mountains, resulting in a large number of bears searching for food in town. Bears came into town in June. There were reports of bears accessing garbage and even entering homes. Bear activity was quiet through the summer months until the last week of August through to the end of October, when bears were again actively searching for food in town. Bears gained access to garbage, fruit and livestock, resulting in food conditioned and people habituated bears that came into conflict.

Many residents believe that bears that come into conflict are relocated to another area. With the exception of some grizzly bears, this is not the case. A bear that has become food conditioned and habituated to humans, is a potential threat. It is too late for these bears. When relocated they will often return to the nearest community, in search of unnatural food. Relocated bears can also have a difficult time adapting to their new home, in potentially another bear’s territory. The cost of relocation is very high and due to limited success, is not done with black bears. Grizzly bears will sometimes be relocated because of a less healthy population number compared with black bears.

Bear Management in Revelstoke & Area, 1988-2008

The above graph shows bear management in Revelstoke and surrounding area between 1986 and 2008. During the ten year period between 1986 and 1996, on average of 27 bears were destroyed each year and an annual average of 16 bears were relocated. In 1994, the municipal landfill was protected with electric fencing. Prior to this, the garbage at the dump provided a major food source for bears resulting in an unnaturally high number of garbage conditioned bears near Revelstoke. The bears, already accustomed to feeding on garbage at the landfill, started to access alternate food sources within the city. In an effort to remedy this situation, the Bear Management Committee was created. The goal of the committee was to develop strategies that would reduce bear/human conflicts and the unnecessary destruction of bears..

In 1996 the Bear Aware program began. The residents of Revelstoke have now been receiving the Bear Aware message for 12 years. The average annual number of bears destroyed as a result of conflict has been reduced to 7, but there is still much work to be done to reduce this number farther. Revelstoke Bear Aware will continue to educate on the importance of securing bear attractants. It is important to eliminate the really problem – unnatural bear food. If a bear does not find food, the bear will carry on and remain a healthy bear.

Thank you to all of the residents that called this year with your questions and concerns and to inform of bear activity. Thank you for securing your garbage, picking your fruit, and managing bear attractants on your property.

I would also like to thank the City of Revelstoke and Columbia Shuswap Regional District, the Conservation Officer, Parks Canada, Revelstoke Times Review, volunteer fruit pickers and the volunteer members of the Revelstoke Bear Aware Society, for their support during the year. Have a safe and happy winter season.

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