A few unexpected guests roamed through Vicki Roper’s neighbourhood Monday night.
“I heard the dogs are barking I just thought, ‘Well, they’re going off about something,’ and I didn’t pay much attention until I heard the gravel in my carport crunching,” said Roper, a resident of West Bank First Nations Land.
“I looked up and sure enough there’s one bear and two little baby cubs… My heart started racing.”
Sightings like this are becoming more and more common in the Central Okanagan. The BC Conservation officer service says in August, the Kelowna office received 129 reports of bears rummaging in garbage bins and jeopardizing public safety.
The Regional District of the Central Okanagan’s parks are also seeing an influx of activity, coinciding with the kokanee spawning season.
“We do have black bears and in all of our regional parks there is opportunity to see a grizzly bear … but they are much more rare,” said Nicole Kittmer, Regional District Central Okanagan park interpreter.
“On the weekend we did have some people show up who specifically were searching out for bears and photo opportunities and that’s really not advised or is it OK for the animal. We want to keep everybody safe and we want to keep the people safe, but we also need to keep our bears safe.”
BC Conservation Foundation, Wildsafe BC is asking Okanagan residents to be extra cautious to prevent bears from coming into neighbourhoods by storing garbage inside overnight, taking down bird feeders and keeping barbecues clean.
“We have the perfect storm of events happening at the moment,” said Meg Bjordal, Wildsafe BC Community coordinator.
“Normally in September, bear activity in the Central Okanagan does peak annually. This is because bears are entering into a phase called hyperphagia. That’s where they are increasing their calorie intake up to about 20,000 cal a day so that they can prepare for winter denning.
“This year we also have drought conditions that have decreased our natural food availability and on the west side there’s also fires that have pushed some of the bears out of their normal habitat areas.
These three different factors are all happening at the same time. We are seeing an exceptional level of bear activity.”
If you run into a bear, walk away slowly if you have to, make noise and be sure to report the incident — and if you see a mom with her cubs, stay extra far away.
— with files from Shelby Thom