Season of the bear

A healthy grizzly population means sightings are not
that unusual

  • Sep. 27, 2013 5:00 p.m.
Why are we seeing so many grizzlies this year?

Why are we seeing so many grizzlies this year?

Carolyn Grant

The fact that so many grizzlies are being seen in and around Kimberley this year is not all that unusual, say provincial government wildlife experts, and may just indicate that the grizzly population in this area is quite healthy. And it is the time of year for bears to be visible around town.

They have definitely been visible in Kimberley, including a visit of longer than a week by two juvenile grizzlies in September, and a recent elk kill on the Lois Creek Trails where a grizzly was seen by Conservation Officers, who removed the kill to encourage the bears to move on.

Out in the valley, there have been several grizzly sightings as well.

Susan Bond – who lives out on LD Ranch Road and, with her partner Peter Moody, was the victim of a grizzly attack last November when they surprised a sow with two cubs at a recent kill – has been trying to keep track of grizzly sightings since then. She says there have been several grizzly sightings in the Wycliffe/Wood’s Corner area in recent weeks.

“There have been several sightings of a lone large grizzly very close to our place plus cattle kills on Crown range just to the south of us,” she said. “The grazing tenure holder  at Pine Butte Ranch (Wycliffe) has lost two adult cows to grizzlies, two calves have simply disappeared, and one calf had bite/claw marks but lived. There was general astonishment hereabouts that big adult cows had been taken down and killed by grizzlies but the kills were confirmed by COs. Tracks indicated possibly a sow with two cubs.”

Lots of sightings, probably more than usual, but why?

“In terms of population, grizzly bear populations grow slowly, so even if the population were rising, it would not be noticeable anecdotally in a single year. It is likely a localized event,” said Brennan Clark at the Ministry of Lands, Forests and Natural Resource Operations.

“Bears (grizzly and black alike) usually enter interface areas at this time more often when natural food sources are scarce. However, 2013 was a good berry year, and so a scarcity of food would not likely be the cause of increased bear sightings.”

Dr. Bruce McLellan is a wildlife research biologist for the provincial government, who also lived in Ta Ta Creek and Marysville in the ‘70s and ‘80s and therefore has some knowledge of the area.

He says the grizzly population in this area is on the rise.

“Yes, grizzly populations grow slowly, but they do grow,” McLellan said. “I think that in general, the grizzly bear populations in southeast  B.C. have been doing well and increasing over the past few decades and, as a result, we will have years when we have more bears near and even into towns. This has been happening in the Elk Valley for the past couple of decades.”

McLellan says that increased sightings are often due to a poor berry crop, but agrees that it has been a pretty good berry season thus far. However, he says the fact that domestic fruit trees in Kimberley seem to be loaded is a very strong attractant. Removing the elk kill was a good move by COs, he says, because a kill can attract other bears from quite a distance.

As for the two juveniles who wandered into town and appeared to like it — it may not have happened in Kimberley recently, but it’s not that unusual.

“Having two three-year-olds, that separated from their mother last spring, enter a town is not unusual for places like Fernie, Sparwood, or Bella Coola.  There are often (maybe even always) grizzly bears in or near these towns,” McLellan said.

With a healthy grizzly population, and with large numbers of black bears as well, McLellan urges people to be bear aware and manage attractants, picking fruit and cutting down fruit trees if you don’t want the fruit. He says he makes a good batch of hard cider each year himself. Good Bear Aware programs are essential in areas of healthy grizzly populations.

“Bear managers have increasing challenges when ‘the public’, from across BC and even the world, are asking for often opposing management goals.”

Biologists seem to agree that grizzly numbers are at least healthy, if not up. And so do those who spend a lot of time in the backcountry. Larry Shannon, 77, of Kimberley, has operated a trap line up the St. Mary Valley, first in Matthew Creek, then Dewar Creek, since he was 15. He says there are more bears “up above” in recent years.

“There’s more sign,” Shannon said. “I believe there are more bears around but I’m not sure I know the reason. But there is way less game up above but lots around town so maybe the grizzly is following the game. Just like there were no deer in Marysville when I was a kid. I think the grizzlies are following the game and the berries.”

All bear sightings should be reported to the RAPP line at 1-877-952-7957. Please call the RAPP line rather than police unless it is an emergency. Police will assist COs in a public safety situation but are not the go-to agency to report bear encounters.

Just Posted

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

Ryan McKenzie of the Kimberley Trails Society made an in-depth presentation to City Council describing the initial steps of the Electrify the Mountains eBike trails project. This is a look at the project one map.
Kimberley City Council hears details on Electrify the Mountain project

At the meeting of City Council on Tuesday, June 8 Ryan McKenzie… Continue reading

The Kimberley Public Library invites kids of all ages to join the 2021 BC Summer Reading Club. Kimberley Public Library file
Kimberley kids invited to join summer reading club at Public Library

The Kimberley Public Library invites kids of all ages to join the… Continue reading

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday, June 10, mentioned Grand Forks among two other COVID “hot spots” in B.C. Photo: Screenshot - YouTube COVID-19 BC Update, June 10, 2021
PHO Henry says West Kootenay city is a COVID ‘hot spot’ in B.C.

There are 11 cases of COVID-19 in the Grand Forks local health area, according the BC CDC

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Most Read