Bear facts: highest human-bear activity in seven years in Heritage city

The bear season in Nelson was ‘unprecedented,’ according to preliminary findings by the WildsafeBC Nelson community coordinator.

Lisa Thomson delivered the first glimpse of her annual report on human-wildlife conflict to city council Nov. 22 and — although the official report isn’t due out until later this year — the news wasn’t great.

She related that there were over 400 “sightings,” with at least seven bears having been destroyed as a result, the highest recorded season since 2016.

“This year has definitely been an unprecedented season,” she said. “It saw the highest number of bears lethally destroyed and this was due to food conditioning and human habituation.”

Human habituated is when wildlife have become less fearful to humans and urban areas, said Thomson, and their behaviour ends up becoming a learned response or a learned behaviour.

Food conditioning, on the other hand, is when wildlife become reliant upon human-generated food sources — garbage, compost, fruit trees — for its food source, resulting in an increase in the number of human and wildlife conflicts and endangering everyone, she explained.

Black bears were the highest reported species in Nelson in 2022, Thomson noted, with July, August and October the highest reported months. Seasonal environmental challenges and natural food availability also contributed to the increase in black bear activity in Nelson during those months, she added.

“Human-generated garbage is the number one source of attractants for a black bear to become food conditioned,” she said.

Fairview topped the list in 2022 as the highest conflict neighbourhood in Nelson in 2022.

“Historically it has been Rosemont,” Thomson said. “But Rosemont has been dialled in … after their couple of years of conflict.”

Uphill saw some activity and the city’s downtown was also a hotbed of bear activity.

Aware to Smart

WildsafeBC began as a Bear Aware Program to support communities in becoming “bear smart.”

A Bear Smart community is one that implements procedures and practices to reduce the frequency and intensity of human-bear conflicts.

The process involves a shift from the reactive management of “problem” bears to the proactive management of the attractants that draw bears into the community.

WildsafeBC helps monitor human-bear conflicts, manage waste, implement and enforce bylaws, manage green space and educate the public.

WildsafeBC has also expanded its programming to assist communities in managing other types of wildlife interactions including deer, cougars, and coyotes.

Source: WildsafeBC

Timothy Schafer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Nelson Daily