Bear complaints may have slowed down a little in recent weeks but Whistlers resident black bear researcher Michael Allen is predicting an unusually busy fall for bear activity in the valley.
"By mid-September we could get back into a really busy fall with bear complaints and just more bear activity in the valley, bears pushing a little bit more," he said this week.
Berry crops are ripening much earlier than usual this year said Allen, due to the unusually warm temperatures. Most shrubs are about two to three weeks early and some plants are up to a month early.
"So basically everything is ripe now as far as it can go, right to the tree line, which is pretty significant," he said.
"Bears are feeding right now where they would normally feed three weeks from now."
He has seen 34 bears feeding at high elevation on the north slope of Whistler Mountain within a three kilometre square radius. The bears arent normally at the top of Green Acres until early to mid-September, he said.
The bears are congregating there for several reasons. In addition to the plentiful food source, which makes it very efficient to forage, the bears are also finding it difficult to find good clumps of food at mid-elevation and the valley bottom.
The valley crop ripened as early as mid to late June this year and the mid-elevation crop ripened in patches, forcing the bears to look for food in higher elevations. And theyve found it there in abundance.
Allen said bears are feeding from 15 to 18 hours every day, some not even taking a break from their feasting during the night.
"What it boils down to is youve got a loaded berry crop up there, its very good," said Allen.
"And youve got a lot of bears. But theyre going to eat it all. Thats whats happening."
Once they exhaust the ripened berries up high, the bears will fan out in search of more food.
Allen predicts some bears will find that food at the clumps of mountain ash shrub or dogwood shrub thats used in landscaping in the valley. He points to prime spots in front of the police station, the library/museum and the Blackcomb administration building.
In the end it will be the yearlings, cubs and pregnant females that will feel the strain of finding food.
"This is Mother Natures ways of checking the population," explained Allen.
"In the last two years weve had over 40 cubs produced because the last two years weve had good berry crops. This is part of the cycle. Now, in 2004, were starting off with a good one (berry crop) but its probably going to crash. This will knock down cub production next winter and this is what we want."
Bear complaints spiked earlier this summer because of the sheer abundance of cubs and yearlings running around and getting into trouble, among other things.
Even if the weather were to change in coming weeks, Allen said its too late. The bears will not have any significant areas of food by mid to late September, which will leave them four or five weeks shy of going into a den with nothing major to eat.
"Even if we did get cooler weather now the high elevation berry crop is pretty full and its a full three weeks early, and thats the bottom line."