Black bears were the main source of wildlife assistance calls to the local brand of the WildSafe program. (Peter Sulzie/Submitted photo)

WildSafe program wraps up quiet season for District of Kent, Harrison

Black bears biggest source of calls in the FVRD

The local WildSafe program is about to hibernate for the winter.

The Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) area WildSafe program is shutting down for the season after another active year. The program will be down by the end of January, to start again in April or May, depending on funding and a few other factors.

Erin Patrick, the area WildSafe BC community coordinator, said the usual sources for wildlife/human conflict calls for this past year were fruit trees (both residential and livestock) and garbage.

It was a quiet season for Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs, with most of the calls coming from Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Mission, in that order.

SEE ALSO:Mother bear, three cubs relocated from Maple Ridge

Between January 1 and November 15, 2019, more than 70 percent of the calls to the WildSafe program were prompted by black bear activity, according to WildSafe’s annual report.

The wildlife/human conflict activity peaked in June, but there was also a smaller spike in autumn, particularly in September and October. The calls that came from Agassiz and Harrison Hot springs made up a minimal portion of the overall wildlife/human conflicts in the FVRD this year, with 25 calls coming from the Agassiz area and even less coming from Harrison Hot Springs, according to Patrick.

The reason behind the relative lull in activity in the eastern part of the FVRD compared to more metropolitan areas is unclear, Patrick added. She said it could be a matter of callers in the eastern FVRD simply not phoning it in when animals come too close. It may be residents aren’t aware of the tool. Patrick’s experience, however, may indicate another theory.

“When I talk to a lot of people at community events who live in more rural areas, they seem to have a better understanding that they can’t leave wildlife attractants around,” Patrick said. “I grew up in a rural area and it’s something I’ve been aware of my whole life; if you leave your garbage out overnight, you’re going to get a bear going through the garbage.”

Of the 1,158 calls made in the area, 838 were bear-related.

SEE ALSO: Bear killed by conservation after habituation in Hope neighbourhood

“BC is an excellent habitat for black bears,” Patrick said. “There’s no place in the province where we don’t have black bears.”

Cougar calls made up about 9 percent of the total local calls with deer just behind at 8 percent. Coyotes brought in 4 percent of the activity while other, unnamed species comprised the rest.

Outside of handling wildlife/human conflict calls, other WildSafe activities include door-to-door canvassing, garbage tagging and the WildSafe Ranger program at elementary schools.

Door-to-door canvassing involves following up on reports of wildlife spotted in the area. For example, if a black bear is spotted in an Agassiz neighbourhood, WildSafe workers will go door to door to spread information and awareness of the issue. Garabage tagging is along the same vein, Patrick said, where garbage cans that are set out too early are marked with a warning sticker about the possible danger of black bears and other wildlife.

“Food is the number one reason while animals come too close and stay too close to communities,” Patrick said. “Animals will come out of the forest if they smell food, and if they are able to keep finding food, they will keep coming back. The reason why we focus so much on attractant management so much is it’s the most tangible piece of informaiton to apply to home management. Whether or not we see them, there’s always wildlife around them. We need to be acutely aware of our impact on them and their impact on us.”

It’s all about getting information out there and improving awareness, Patrick added.

Patrick said is grateful for the support of the British Columbia Conservation Foundation, Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, the Conservation Officer Service and Bylaw Enforcement as well as the efforts of everyone making a difference for human-wildlife conflicts.

For off-season assistance for wildlife/human conflicts, call the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) hotline by dialing #7277 or 1-877-952-7277 or by emailing [email protected]

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