A late-summer surge of bears into Kamloops isn't anything new, but the number of mothers and cubs has stood out for conservation officers.
"The influx of family units this year is unique," said acting inspector Darcy MacPhee on Friday.
But it is the time that food supplies in higher elevations dry up and bears come down into the valley, knowing there's more food available along the water, he said.
"It's definitely been busier than normal," he said.
The mother-cub combination makes dealing with the bears more dangerous, as the sows are instinctively protective of their offspring.
Late this week, the bear count in Kamloops included a mother and three cubs at McArthur Island, a mother and cub reported near the Henry Grube Centre, a mother and cub spotted near Pioneer Park, an adult up a tree in Riverside Park and two cubs in the Mount Paul area.
The latter two cubs were orphaned last month when their mother was killed on Highway 5 on the Tk'emlups Indian Reserve. The sow died, and a reported third cub has not been seen. The two youngsters were captured late Thursday and at the conservation service office Friday waiting to be trucked to a rehab centre in Smithers.
The brother and sister cubs, weighing about 17 and 10 kilograms respectively, would have still been nursing on their mother, so they were in remarkably good shape considering they've been without her since mid-August, MacPhee said.
They'll be going to Northern Lights Wildlife Society, a non-profit organization that takes orphaned and injured animals like bears, cougars, moose and deer, and gets them back to the wild.
MacPhee said the two cubs would have stayed with their mother until spring. It will be up to staff at Northern Lights to teach them to survive on their own. But the fact they've made it for three weeks without their mother is a good sign.
"It's a tough road ahead for them," he said.
Conservation staff did have to kill one bear in town this season. Last month, an adult bear that was showing aggression toward people was destroyed.
They are trying to trap the family at McArthur Island, but haven't had any luck.
MacPhee said residents have to keep their garbage secured away so bears can't get into it, put bird feeders away and pick their fruit as soon as it's ripe. Right now, the bears are largely going after the ripening apple crops, he said.
"If they don't have a food source, they keep going."