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Sparwood Council discusses local bear problems

With a particularly active season in terms of bears coming into the community, Sparwood’s District Council discussed possible solutions.

Mayor David Wilks said 2021 has been a bad year for bear activity.

“The COs (Conservation Officers) have had to put down 14 bears so far this year. It’s been a real struggle for us,” said Wilks.

The bears have moved in on the community following a hot, dry summer that damaged berry crops, which serve as an important food source.

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“There just wasn’t the production of berries that there normally is. As a result, they become driven to find food, and the first thing they’re trying to sense is fruit. Once they’re driving into town, they find another food source, which is garbage. Once they get familiarized with it, they don’t want to leave,” said Wilks. “Unfortunately for the COs, it puts them into a very difficult position. It’s sad to hear from the COs that there is really only one option for them, and that is to shoot them.”

Wilks said that relocating bears requires manpower local COs don’t have access to, and even then, the animals will likely find their way back.

In a meeting on Tuesday night, WildSafe BC, a local CO and the bylaw officer came together to speak with District Council.

A few suggestions were put forward by WildSafe and the CO’s office.

“We could put out communal garbage bins for those who don’t have access to a way of securing their garbage. We’ll look at that and potentially put them into strategic locations,” said Wilks.

Wilks noted that Sparwood residents are supplied with bear-resistant garbage bins.

Fruit trees around the community provide another food source to the animals.

“We talked about the potential for offering a tree replacement program, but there are people in town who are very passionate about their fruit trees they may have worked at for many years,” explained Wilks. “All in all, we learned a couple of things we could potentially move on and we were doing the best we could to considering the circumstances.”

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