A total of 12 bears in Squamish were destroyed in a year that saw very few berries produced in prime bear habitat.
Squamish Bear Aware Community Coordinator Meg Toom has reported to Squamish Council in her annual report that the poor berry crop along with continued development in crucial wildlife habitat or wildlife corridors are two factors leading to an increase in the number of calls of concern placed to the Conservation Officer Service (COS) to report bear conflicts. According to statistics collected by Toom, 826 calls to the COS hotline were placed to report bear conflicts. The number of calls is up slightly from 2011 and the number of destroyed bears is up dramatically. Only one black bear was destroyed in 2011. Toom’s statistics indicate six bears were relocated in 2011 while seven went through a relocation process in 2012.
Toom reported that some of the aging garbage totes used by Squamish residents and owned by Carney’s Waste Systems are in need of repair or replacement and this is a concern.
“Over 100 broken lock notices were distributed in 2012 during garbage tote audits,” wrote Toom. “Educating and encouraging residents to call Carney’s Waste Systems when their totes are damaged remains a challenging priority.”
Toom added that like bears in Whistler, some bruins have discovered that tipping over commercial garbage bins is an effective way to get food rewards. Carney’s has implemented a system to prevent the tipping but Toom sees this as an ongoing issue.
“Squamish has developed a fairly high tolerance level to the presence of bears. With cougar activity sometimes surpassing bear activity, residents have often commented that they are not so much afraid of bears, as they are of cougars,” Toom wrote in the annual Bear Aware report. “This shift in mindset has created a certain level of complacency and a higher acceptance of bear activity that poses new challenges for the Bear Aware/Wildsafe Program.”
The report from Toom also points to concerns over the mess left by campers who leave behind wildlife attractants after spending the night within the district of Squamish in places that aren’t authorized for camping.
The Squamish Fruit Tree Project volunteers picked unwanted ripe fruit from trees around the community and gave the produce to a number of charity groups. The fruit collected weighed in at 726kg (1,600 lbs) and Toom wrote that the amount of fruit left on trees in the community exceeds the scope of the program.
Toom has asked the council in Squamish to consider funding the Bear Aware/Wildsafe Program again in 2013. She has also asked council to write a letter to the transportation and infrastructure ministry about the high number of vehicle-wildlife collisions on Highway 99. Toom has also asked the community leaders to write the ministry of forest, land and natural resources to express concern over unauthorized camping around Squamish and the risk of human-wildlife conflicts created by those campers.
Toom’s requests will be discussed by the members of Squamish council at a Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 22.