By Claire Piech
Last week’s Squamish grizzly bear episode may not be a one-time event, with more urban grizzly bear sightings predicted throughout the Sea to Sky corridor this summer.
“We definitely have had more grizzly sightings this year than in the last few years,” said Conservation Officer Chris Doyle.
“We have had 150 bear complaints so far, and we expect several hundred more before the season ends,” he said.
In fact, last week’s Squamish bear sighting occurred on the same day that another grizzly was reported killing livestock in Pemberton.
Grizzly bear activity usually begins in May and extends to October, with August and September being the busiest months.
Doyle said whether or not there is an increase in activity in the months to come will depend on the bears’ food supply, mainly berries.
Careless garbage management, increasing development in bear territory, and this year’s snowpack are also being cited as reasons why bears are moving into human areas.
The grizzly wandering the streets of Squamish last Wednesday morning is of special concern because of his adaptation to garbage as a food source and his comfort level with humans. He is the first grizzly to have wandered into the town in over 10 years and, at only three years old, already has a history of getting into campsites and illegal rave parties looking for garbage.
“If he does return, he will likely be destroyed,” said Doyle, adding that once bears get a taste for garbage, they tend to stay close to communities where they can find easy sources of unnatural food.
“Everyone in the Sea to Sky area should be concerned about attracting bears. If it is not this bear, it is going to be another bear that is attracted by unnatural food and comes into conflict with people and causes harm,” said Doyle.
The bear, nicknamed Butterscotch by locals, was relocated to the Elaho Valley last Friday morning after being caught in a snare trap the previous night.
The grizzly found in Pemberton and relocated to the Meager Creek area is less of a concern than the Squamish bear.
“It is normal to see grizzlies in Pemberton. This one happened to be in a chicken coop, which is normal because chickens are easy prey for bears,” said Doyle.
However, the occurrence of the two grizzlies on the same day highlights the fact that grizzly activity is high this year.
“People have to expect there to be contact with bears over the summer,” said Doyle. “Unfortunately, some of the bears will have to be consequently destroyed. This is normal.”
He added that it is in the hands of residents and businesses in the area to contain attractants and keep bears wild.
While grizzlies haven’t been seen in Whistler in decades, two black bears have already been destroyed in the Whistler area this season for coming into conflict situations with humans. One of the bears destroyed was breaking into homes and vehicles in Whistler Cay, Nesters, and Alpine Meadows at the end of April.
A total of nine black bears were destroyed last year in Whistler.