Although 2021 was a record-breaking year for black bear sightings across the province, Port Alberni actually had a lower number of reported conflicts with bears this year. Cougars, though, were a different story.
WildSafe BC reported that there were nearly 20,000 reported black bear sightings to conservation officers between January and October of this year.
However, Port Alberni WildSafe coordinator Duncan Booth says there were only 172 reports of black bears in the Alberni Valley.
“This is a little bit lower than the previous three-year average,” Booth told Port Alberni city council during a meeting on Monday, Dec. 13.
Garbage is the most common attractant for black bears, he said, followed by fruit trees and livestock.
“Bears often get into these unsavoury patterns of getting into unnatural foods to forage on, and that leads them into situations where the conservation officer needs to intervene—often leading to the destruction of the animal, unfortunately,” Booth said.
It remains to be seen whether the city’s new compost collection system will lead to more conflicts with black bears. The three-stream waste collection system rolled out in mid-September, and both WildSafe BC and the city are continuing to monitor it.
“Compost is certainly a big attractant and as the three-stream rollout continues to happen, it’s definitely adding one more layer of attractants in,” said Booth.
Although the number of bear reports was down this year, the Alberni Valley had 74 reports of cougars, which Booth says is the highest number WildSafe BC has in its records (which began in 2016).
WildSafe BC is a program delivered by the BC Conservation Foundation in communities across B.C. The program aims to prevent conflicts with wildlife through collaboration, education and community solutions.
This year, Booth spoke to more than 500 students about wildlife safety at Wood Elementary School, Haahuupayak Elementary School, EJ Dunn Elementary School, Maquinna Elementary School, John Howitt Elementary School and Alberni District Secondary School.
He also held multiple workshops on wilderness safety and awareness, as well as a few bear spray workshops and electric fence workshops.
One of Booth’s roles as the WildSafe coordinator is to “tag” garbage bins that are left unsecured or put out at the curb too early. Over eight surveys this year, Booth tagged 170 bins. Only 11 bins required a second sticker, he said.
The garbage tagging program has been put on hold during the rollout of the city’s organics collection, he added.