By Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Wolverine Nordic and Mountain Society says hikers in the Tumbler Ridge area should be aware this summer after spotting several bears at popular trails.
“We have noticed there are a LOT of bears out this year – especially grizzlies. There is a momma grizzly and cub hanging out at Shipyard-Titanic near the trailhead,” the club stated in a recent post on social media.
The club says a bear, likely male, has also been hanging around Mt. Spieker and doesn’t seem to be afraid of side-by-sides or groups of hikers, while another bear was spotted by the back end of Bittern Trail at the Bullmoose Marshes.
Garth Mowat, large carnivore specialist for the province, says the increased sighting of grizzlies and other bears can likely be attributed to a late spring, with vegetation now ready – a food source for the wildlife.
“The fact that the spring was late pushed the grizzly bears down into lower elevations, which is exactly the same for the black bears, and basically forces them to spend more time around people,” he said.
Mowat says climate change is a threat to the bears, with last summer’s heat dome impacting B.C. and the bears’ food supply.
“A lot of berry crops burned off, you had a lot of poor berry crops in many places. So many bears went into the den not as fat as they normally would have,” he said. “Then this spring was really late, three weeks late. The bears came out and they were skinnier than normal, and there was little vegetation available.”
Mowat says they haven’t seen population effects from the grizzly hunt ban, a practice outlawed back in 2017.
“We certainly don’t expect it. There was expectation from some folks around the province that after we stopped the hunt that grizzly bear populations would increase, but the proportion of animals that were killed every year was really small,” he said. “It averaged around two or three per cent depending on where you were in the province, and so I think the changes in the population would be undetectable.”
Mowat says black bears are more likely to get into conflicts with humans, noting grizzlies are more likely to stay in higher elevations away from people.
“The Conservation Officer Service had a lot of calls around black bear conflicts this spring and that’s for a similar reason: the spring was late, the green up was slow,” he said.
Over the past seven years, 3,779 black bears were killed across British Columbia in government-sanctioned euthanizations to protect the public.
Provincial stats were released in June for 2021, flagging Prince George, 100 Mile House, Quesnel, Burns Lake and Vernon as being among the deadliest communities for bears, with 110 put down in the five communities combined last year.
The Peace region saw far fewer bear casualties, with four in Chetwynd, three each in Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson, two each in Fort St. John and Tumbler Ridge, and one in Hudson’s Hope. There were none in Taylor and Pouce Coupe.
This item reprinted with permission from Alaska Highway News, Fort St. John, British Columbia