Winter is coming, and an unusually high volume of bear activity in the Elk Valley has been reported as they search for food.

WildsafeBC is reminding the public to be aware of bears in urban areas, the notice comes after a bear and two cubs were spotted near Fernie’s courthouse last week.

“We pretty much have bears all over Fernie right now,” said WildsafeBC coordinator Kathy Murray. “Bears are currently in a phase called hyperphagia, this is where they need to consume up to 20,000 calories per day in preparation for winter denning.”

According to WildsafeBC, black bear encounters are at their highest in six years, as just over 14,000 sightings have been reported to conservation officers across the province as of October 4, 2019.

Murray added the abnormally high number of bear sightings is partially due to an abundance of food in recent years.

“We’ve had several years of really good berry crops, so of course the sows produce two or three cubs,” said Murray. “we also have more people living in wildlife habitats, which means more potential conflict.

Murray went on to say that the best way to prevent an encounter with bears is to keep garbage inside and clear your yard of anything that may attract a bear, such as fruit or vegetables.

According to WildsafeBC’s website, garbage accounts for 60% of calls regarding bears between 2014 and 2017.

“If you see bears in town, accessing unnatural food, like garbage, just call the conservation service hotline at 1-877-952-7277,” Murray told MyEastKootenayNow.com. “If you see a bear, just stop, stay calm, identify yourself as human, and back away slowly. Leave the bear space to escape, and keep in mind that bears protect three things: their food, their space and their cubs.”

Murray added the abnormally high number of bear sightings is partially due to an abundance of food in recent years.

“We’ve had several years of really good berry crops, so of course the sows produce two or three cubs,” said Murray. “we also have more people living in wildlife habitats, which means more potential conflict.”

WildsafeBC has tips and advice on how to mitigate bear encounters and what to if you are faced with the animals on their website.