Concern in West Kelowna after being named one of B.C.’s deadliest cities for black bears

Click to play video: 'West Kelowna in the spotlight for black bear deaths'
West Kelowna in the spotlight for black bear deaths
A list of communities with the deadliest bear outcomes was released and West Kelowna has been on that list two years in a row. As Jayden Wasney reports, the city says it is actively working towards being a bear aware community. – Jun 28, 2023

It’s a stat no community wants to be known for, but, this week, West Kelowna was listed as one of the top eight communities in B.C. for black bear deaths in 2022.

In that year alone, conservation officers across the province had to put down 500 black bears — a staggering number of deaths that could be prevented.

“This goes from residents to businesses to local governments, all the way up to the province,” said Aaron Hofman, director of advocacy and policy with The Fur-Bearers.

“Everyone has a role to play in protecting black bears and preventing their deaths.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. deadliest communities for black bears'
B.C. deadliest communities for black bears

According to The Fur Bearers, a non-profit charity that’s been tracking the deadliest communities for black bears in the province, Prince George topped the list with 32 black bear deaths in 2022, while West Kelowna tied for fourth after 12 black bears were euthanized.

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Okanagan Falls and Revelstoke also had 12 black bear deaths.

Aaron Hofman says there are several indicators as to why West Kelowna — which had 13 black bear deaths in 2021 and 45 overall since 2015 — made the list.

“Of course, we’ve had environmental changes such as fires that might have depleted the natural food sources of bears. So they’re looking for food and if there are easily accessible foods in urban areas, they’ll seek that out,” said Hofman.

Below is the list’s top eight communities for black bear deaths in 2022:

  • Prince George: 32
  • Nelson: 21
  • Castlegar: 14
  • Okanagan Falls: 12
  • Revelstoke: 12
  • West Kelowna: 12
  • Nanaimo: 10
  • Port Alberni: 10

The list had more than 400 entries.

Kelowna had nine black bear deaths (up from six in 2021) and 68 overall since 2015,

Penticton had three black bear deaths (down from four in 2022) and 24 overall since 2015.

Vernon had six black bear deaths (down from 16 in 2021) and 50 overall since 2015.

Oliver had five black bears in 2022 (14 overall since 2015) while nearby Osoyoos had none (four overall since 2015).

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Salmon Arm had two black bear deaths (none in 2021) and 14 overall since 2015.

Some West Kelowna residents say they’d like to see the city do more when it comes to preventing these unnecessary deaths, through more education and resources.

Click to play video: 'Okanagan communities on municipalities list with highest death rates for black bears'
Okanagan communities on municipalities list with highest death rates for black bears

“They could send out notices definitely about keeping your garbage in your garage until it’s time to take it out,” said West Kelowna resident, Marlowe Vogel.

“I think we have to get different cans, more secure cans,” said another West Kelowna resident, Larry Smith.

“Right now, we can just buy something at Canadian Tire, and that doesn’t work.”

In an email to Global News, the city says “We are concerned about these numbers. Council has directed staff to complete a bear hazard assessment for the safety of our community and the fate of bears who wander into our neighbourhoods in search of food, and that assessment is underway.”

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Click to play video: 'Black bear spotted walking on fence tops in East Vancouver'
Black bear spotted walking on fence tops in East Vancouver

The city works with WildsafeBC to help educate the community. Global also reached out to Wildsafe to ask how it’s combatting the problem, but it too wasn’t available to comment.

However, residents were vocal about it, urging everyone to play a role.

“I think it’s more to do with the residents and their garbage mitigation,” said West Kelowna resident Steve Favel.

“Make sure you don’t put it out too early, keep it cleaned up around the area, and don’t be in a big panic when you see one. They’re going to leave you alone most of the time you leave them alone.”

According to the province, 4,279 black bears were euthanized between 2015 and 2022 by conservation officers.

Click to play video: 'West Vancouver man fined $5,000 for feeding black bears'
West Vancouver man fined $5,000 for feeding black bears

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