The capture and euthanization of two black bears in the Lake Cowichan area in October has led to calls for town council to explore solutions to dealing with intruding bears that don’t lead to their deaths.
A large group of people attended the town council meeting on Oct. 24 to address the issue with the town’s leadership.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Lake Cowichan resident Jaana Ferri said solutions are needed to end what she termed the brutal destruction and killing of bears in the area, as happened last month.
Conservation officers captured and euthanized the two bears in separate incidents after they appeared to show minimal fear of humans.
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The B.C. Conservation Officer Service received numerous reports that the bears had gotten into unsecured garbage and appeared conditioned to human food, so they were considered poor candidates for relocation.
Ferri said the group wants the town to consider other ways to slow and stop bears from continually coming into the community and, in turn, this will slow the destruction of bears.
She said several communities in the province have been successful in implementing programs to achieve this.
“Although black bears are at times destructive, they are rarely aggressive, but as their habitat shrinks and their food sources become more difficult for them to find, they become scavengers that are territorial and they become a danger to humans,” Ferri said.
“Only one was trapped and killed in Lake Cowichan between 2016 and 2021, but seven were destroyed here in 2022, and that’s just in Lake Cowichan. There has never been a single case of deaths, aggression, attacks or injury on Vancouver Island and we want to keep it that way.”
Ferri said more bears are coming into town, particularly in September and October, because their habitat is changing with more logging and more houses being constructed, and climate change is also contributing to the problem with more droughts causing lower water levels in the rivers which sees fish runs, which bears depend on, occurring later every year.
“We need to address this now before we’re overwhelmed with the problem of bears coming into town,” she said.
“We’re already at the point where we’re trapping and killing them and is that the best solution? We have to find a better way like bear-safe community projects that are in place in Nelson.”
Mayor Tim McGonigle said council doesn’t make decisions on issues immediately after hearing from a delegation, but he assured the group that their comments and views will be taken into consideration.
He said provincial conservation officers and officials from WildsafeBC attended a council meeting in May to talk about bear and other wildlife issues and, as part of the process, council has implemented a more stringent garbage bylaw with larger fines for those who don’t keep their refuse secure and safe from bears.
“Bylaws are complaint driven, so it’s imperative that if you see any contraventions of this bylaw, you should report it,” McGonigle said.
“We have been given WildsafeBC grants in previous years and this year to go around prior to garbage day and see if any people are putting their garbage receptacles out early and, if so, we first give them a warning and, if it continues, a fine. This issue will go to the town’s committee of the whole for further discussion.”
McGonigle added that this year was an anomaly in that there was a lack of berries that bears usually feed on prior to the fish runs in local waterways, which interrupted the bears’ usual feeding patterns.
“I think we’re in for more of that in the future, so everything we can do to mitigate any interactions should be done,” he said.
Coun. Aaron Frisby said that with such a large group of residents willing to help deal with the bear issue, he believes there’s an opportunity to make a difference.
He said he thinks what’s lacking is an overall plan for dealing with problem bears in Lake Cowichan, and encouraged the group to research and decide on one plan that could work for the town and present it to council.
Ferri said the group is planning on taking that course of action.