by Wildlife Advisory Committee of DIRA, November 6, 2023
By Peter Karsten Co-Chair WAC
September 18: The WAC received the first report on bear presence feeding on pears at a residence on Greenhill Road near Stanehill Park. A bear scat (feces) was found on Greenhill Road and examined. It contained only fruit particles and no animal matter.
October 14: At a Stanhill Place residence a wire fence was pushed down and remaining apples disappeared. A branch was broken of the apple tree.
October 19: On Stanehill Place as suet cake was disappeared from a bird feeder. Claw marks damaging the feeder post were seen. Suet feeding was curtailed.
October a number of comments were received about feeding on fruit in the community. The bear apparently roamed over the entire Island.
October 27: An adult sheep was killed and partly consumed at the farm of Dave and Fern Niedermoser. It was reported to the Conservation Officer (CO). The CO advised that they are not taking action at this point. The CO advised that the community should be notified to secure their livestock and to remove attractants (potential bear food).
October 29 and November 1: two Nubian goats were lost at the Landor farm but no carcass found.
November 3: Desperate bleating of a goat was heard in the early morning hours at the Landor farm. 2 goat carcasses were found and examined. Signs suggested bear kill. A bear scat containing animal matter and berries was found near the suite. Clear, fresh foot prints of a black bear were found on the farm in several locations. A detailed report with photos was submitted to the CO Office in Nanaimo.
The WAC highly recommends that Islander read the well-presented information by the Ministry of Water, Land, and Air Protection (MWLAP) on the coexistence of humans with bears and other predators i.e. “Bear Smart” brochure and Background Report of the MWLAP 2002.
The take-away is that humans share prime habitat with bears of high food productivity for humans and bears. Humans have extensively displaced bears from that environment to less productive habitats with resulting food shortage for bears. Years with a poor berry crop resulted in higher cases of wildlife conflict. Bears must sequester enormous food quantities to build up fat reserves for hibernation this puts additional pressure on searching food in our communities. Bears are fast learners about where they can safely find food. They are omnivores as we are and our food is perfect bear food.
In the past two decades the WAC had reports of bears visiting Denman Island to feed in fruit, predominately in the fall. Livestock was not taken and the bears left the Island on their own.
To protect farm animals, they are best held (at least at night) in solid barns with electric fencing to protect it. One farm had built a large goat corral with 4 heavy electric cables which would keep a bear back but unfortunately the bear spooked the goats and they crashed through the fence to become accessible to the bear. It takes combination of a stock fence that keeps farm animals in with an addition of at least two strands of electric wire on the outside to create a bear-safe barrier. A desperate bear trapped behind it could still break trough ignoring the electric wire and scaling the fence, even an 8-foot game fence. Protecting livestock from bears is a challenge. The presence and barking of dogs seem to have deterred the roaming bear.
To avoid conflict is in our hands. We can participate in a “Bear Smart Program” to improve public safety, reduce property damage and have fewer bears killed. This is a proactive approach rather than a reactive approach. Several communities have taken the program.
The Ministry states that on a ten-year average they received close to 4,000 complaints, followed up on almost 2,000 and destroyed over 600 black bears.
The WAC encourages Islanders to report sightings and conflict with predators to the WAC. Phone numbers are on the inside of the Denman Phone Directory. We will investigate kills and signs to establish the cause and evidence of predators. We also investigate dog incidences.
Any loss of animals or property damage due to wild predators should be reported immediately directly by the owner or custodian to the CO phone 1 877 952 7277 (RAPP)