It was a much less deadly summer for Revelstoke-area black bears this year.
Only three bruins were euthanized by conservation officers this year, compared to the 24 that were killed in 2016.
The first bear was killed in the Big Eddy neighbourhood on May 14 after it entered a home by way of dog door in search of food and returned again.
On June 28, a bear was killed in Columbia Park after being conditioned to garbage. Conservation officer Dan Bartol described hearing about the bear walking past a strawberry bush and then a raspberry bush before settling on diapers.
On Aug.16, another black bear was shot near the mill on Eighth Street.
The three bears killed this year is a far cry from last summer, when Revelstoke was in the spotlight after conservation officers killed nine bears in three days.
“Three is definitely better,” said Bartol, who was at the centre of the bear management last year. “I’d love to see it be zero.”
There are a number of factors as to why more bears approach urban centres in some years rather than in others.
On Oct. 6, The Canadian Press reported that 469 bears had been destroyed in B.C. this year and that it was an average year for wildlife complaints.
Revelstoke Bear Aware community coordinator, Maggie Spizzirri, said that part of why bears were frequenting Revelstoke so much last year was that the berry crops failed. A hot April made an early berry bloom and by late summer and into fall, they failed, she said.
When bears can’t find food in the mountains, they end up in urban areas looking for easy gets. Sometimes that’s grazing from neighbourhood fruit trees and sometimes it’s gorging on garbage that is improperly secured.
“Once they get into garbage, they don’t want to eat anything else,” said Bartol.
While the berry bloom is not a straight equation, bears and their relationship to garbage is, he said.
Spizzirri said that if there’s a silver lining to be had from last year’s killings, it’s that “it pulled everybody’s socks up on Bear Aware.”
In the spring, city council introduced a new animal attractants bylaw and replaced all the garbage bins downtown with bear-proof receptacles.
“I think over the years a lot of us have become a little complacent about looking after garbage, cleaning our fruit trees and things like that, which are bear attractants,” said mayor Mark McKee. “It was a really bad year and I think that the amount of bears that were unfortunately put down in Revelstoke really hit home to a lot of people and it created a real controversy in the town.”
The new animal attractant bylaw is mostly enforced on a complaint basis, said Dawn Low, City of Revelstoke director of corporate administration.
But in September, bylaw officers held a blitz.
There were 17 offences recorded that month.
The focus of the city is on education and compliance with bylaws, she said. However, a ticket relating to the attractants bylaw nets a $200 fine – reduced to $100 if you pay within 30 days.
Low said that she thinks the new bylaw has definitely helped keep attractants away from bears.
“We did learn from last year,” she said.
As bears are preparing for hibernation, they are consuming upwards of 20,000 calories per day, said Spizzirri.
Now is the time to be extra diligent about minimizing wildlife attractants.
Bear Aware offers a gleaning program for those unable to harvest their own produce.
“Right now is a critical time for bears,” said Bartol.
For more information on how to Bear Aware your property, visit revelstokebearaware.org