Bear Aware will do a late-night garbage-can blitz to remind Kamloops residents they need to be ever vigilant in preventing bear-human clashes.
The campaign follows the killing of a mother bear and one of her three cubs this past weekend after the sow became aggressive and charged a conservation officer. The two surviving cubs have been sent to a wildlife rehabilitation centre.
Provincial Bear Aware co-ordinator Frank Ritcey said Wednesday despite the recent flurry of bear-family sightings in Kamloops and the surrounding region this year, the bruin problem hasn't been much different than other years.
While the most recent human-bear encounter did not end well for the bears, the fact is there have not been more bear complaints than usual.
That one bear family prompted several of the 335 black-bear calls made to officials between Jan. 1 and Sept. 19 of this year, compared with 442 during the same period last year, he said.
"Things have picked up in the last couple of weeks, so people get the sense there's more bears being seen. But it was a wet spring, so there was lots of grass that bears fed on when they first came out. Then there was a good natural berry crop. So the bears had lots of natural foods to get into," said Ritcey.
At this time of the year, bears are trying to fatten up for winter and they're seeking out fall fruit harvests, bird feeders and trash cans to do so. They need 20,000 calories a day — about 40 Big Macs, or 2.5 kilograms of birdseed.
"They're not going to make it eating berries only," he said.
"We as citizens of Kamloops have to take our responsibility. I see so much garbage out before collection day. That's just an open invitation for the bears.
"Garbage is the number one attractant in Kamloops."
Darcy MacPhee, acting inspector for B.C. Environment Ministry's conservation service, said the latest bear family casualties had already been relocated, only to make their way back to town.
The mother and her three cubs hung around McArthur Island this summer, but were trapped three weeks ago and taken about 20 miles north of the city past the McLure area. The adult female was ear tagged.
On Friday, his office got a call that a female and three cubs were at Riverside Park.
"We heard about someone who ran into these bears and was chased a short distance by the sow."
Another sighting was called in Saturday. By Sunday afternoon, the family had crossed the river and returned to McArthur Island.
"Sunday couldn't have been a worse time. It was 3 p.m. and the park was full, there were soccer games on and hundreds of people around," he said.
By the time conservation officers arrived, the mother bear was on one side of a fence and her three cubs on the other — the separation and presence of people was making the female anxious.
She chased after one of the officers, who shot her on the spot. The three cubs were treed and tranquillized with darts.
MacPhee said two of the cubs came down and were loaded into a holding trap. The third wasn't reacting to the drug as it should have, and two other darts were fired.
The tranquillizing didn't work, so the conservation officer made the call to shoot it, he said.
"The officer involved beat himself up over it, but he did what he could. It doesn't always go as planned," he said.
"To be honest, it's terrible. It's bad enough to put down a full adult bear. Certainly if it's behaving aggressively and a threat to the public it's a little easier, but it's still a live, beautiful animal. But when you have to put down a cub, that's a tough thing on the officer."
The two surviving cubs were sent to North Lights Wildlife Society, a rehabilitation organization that will take the young bears, fill them with fruits and then wild meat and fish until hibernation. They'll release the
"We've sent six cubs this year. I've never seen that in my career," said MacPhee, noting with the latest pair, the total is eight bears to Northern Lights. Two were from Merritt and two from the Adams Lake area.
"It's a disappointing ending but it's not one we're surprised about. I'm pleased we managed to save the two."
Bear Aware counts for bear complaints and killings in recent years:
* 1998: 892 complaints, 46 bears killed
* 1999: 343 complaints, 11 bears killed
* 2000: 248 complaints, 13 bears killed
* 2001: 535 complaints, 25 bears killed
* 2002: 267 complaints, 10 bears killed
* 2003: 1,554 complaints, 35 bears killed
* 2004: 434 complaints, 3 bears killed
* 2005: 427 complaints, 3 bears killed
* 2006: 791 complaints, 4 bears killed
* 2007: 423 complaints, 3 bears killed
* 2008: 507 complaints, 5 bears killed
* 2009: 173 complaints, 4 bears killed
* 2010: 310 complaints, 5 bears killed
* 2011: 599 complaints, 6 bears killed