Wildsafe BC Speaks to Bear Activity and More in Nelson and Castlegar


Wildsafe-BC in Nelson is extending their program into December after a busy season of bear activity.

Lisa Thomson tells Bounce Radio that bears are slowly moving towards their dens for hibernation, but there are still sightings:

“In Nelson we usually kind of see this happen like ‘well it’s the end of November, or middle of November, why haven’t these guys left yet?’…. It’s a bit of a mild fall right now and there’s still, because of the fruit tree harvest there’s still lots of food for them and bears won’t den if there’s still available food sources.”

That includes poorly managed compost and garbage: Thomson says bin-tagging was up this year with 43 people tagged over seven sessions because garbage was left out early the night before pick-up.

Once bear activity does finally wrap up this year and Wildsafe’s seasonal programming along with it, there are still other critters that residents need to be mindful of.

“The deer move into all those parks that are closed off and they move down lower into the valleys to avoid the heavy snow depths and the cougars come down to hunt them....” explains Thomson "....In February and March we see a lot of conflicts with coyotes because that’s their breeding season and they tend to be a bit more aggressive towards our pets.”

Conservation tells Bounce Radio that it was a better year overall for destroyed bears in Nelson, with just one recorded inside city limits due to injury compared to a much harsher 2022.

Meanwhile Castlegar has seen five bears destroyed this year compared to last year's nine.

That from a recent presentation to Castlegar City Council.

It seems Castlegar's new curbside Organics program has made managing animal attractants interesting for Wildsafe-BC.

Residents are leaving organics bins out overnight more than they are garbage bins, with 124 residential tags and 36 commercial tags issued this year, compared to 60 residential and 23 commercial last year.

That from Wildsafe's Tara Pejski:

“In my conversations with bylaw, what they like to do is they offer a warning and then for the second offence you get a ticket. I would put some thought into do the warnings reset every season?”

Another recommendation from Pejski is to not slow down on community education:

“A lot of long time residents don’t seem phased by bear activity but they are very against rat and skunk and other species and so trying to share with them, that when we talk about the attractants, it’s not just to maintain bear activity but all wildlife. So the same thing that attracts bears, attracts rats, it’s all the same”

Council also heard that it's important for residents to better understand how conservation officers can help, as a call to conservation is not just about destroying bears.

One Castlegar City Councillor asked Wildsafe's Castlegar Coordinator if Castlegar has a rat problem:

“Rats can be really tricky because they can reproduce so quickly. One rat can have up to 900 babies in a single year. So if you let them build a den on your property and they have access to food, it can become a problem very quickly.”

Pejski adds that while there is a growing population and increased reports, it's hard to say if Castlegar has a rat problem.