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Do the ‘bear’ minimum: Report wildlife encounters in the Okanagan-Similkameen

Not every bear that’s encountered needs to become dangerous
This juvenile bear wandered through a West Bench backyard early July, 2023. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)

Despite a growing push for it on social media, not reporting bears only heightens the risk that they become a danger to the public and themselves.

If a bear is reported early enough, it can be driven away before it can become too comfortable around people.

“If there are delays and things escalate to the point where bears are entering properties and houses when people are present, when they’re getting too comfortable around residential neighborhoods, at that point there’s a safety hazard and the Conservation Officers don’t really have a lot of options,” said Shelley Fiorito, a community coordinator for the Wild Safe program with the RDOS.

Recently, a large number of residents in the West Bench area just outside of Penticton have been taking to social media to talk about bears spotted in the region. Even local MP Richard Cannings joined in the conversations with a video he shared of a trio of bears playing in a water feature in his backyard.

Not all encounters are fun and playful, however. As Fiorito mentioned, one bear earlier this year had gone into a West Bench resident’s home while they were there and that bear is one of at least two in the area that have been destroyed this year.

The West Bench area’s geography, as an interface community with wildland on one side and the city of Penticton on the other, often sees a large number of animals move through it. It’s only when those animals linger and lose their fear of people that they become too dangerous to be allowed to live.

One of the difficulties facing Wild Safe and Conservation officers is a lack of direct reports about bears in the area. Social media posts, while plentiful, can’t be acted on.

“As helpful as it is for a community to share that information with the rest of community members, organizations like Wild Safe and even the conservation officers are not available to monitor social media accounts to see those reports or that activity,” said Fiorito.

In those social media posts is another issue, with commenters expressing concerns about reporting bears on the belief they’ll be automatically tracked down and killed.

“There are a number of steps to the process before it gets to the point where bears are being destroyed, but if you’re not reporting, we kind of miss that entire process and it goes straight to trapping and removal,” said Fiorito.

If a bear or other predator is reported quickly enough, Wild Safe will head into action by doing mail-outs, posting signs, talk with residents, schools and other education on how to keep the bear from sticking around.

“It’s a struggle because, you know, if we had the opportunity to address an issue earlier, perhaps the COs could have an opportunity to haze the bears out of the community, and chase them up and out safely,” said Fiorito.

On top of reporting the bears before they can become a danger to themselves and others, there are plenty of things residents can do to reduce the chance of the wildlife sticking around in the area and becoming too comfortable around humans.

Wild Safe BC handles notifications and education for residents, as well as checks to ensure the RDOS’ bylaws on garbage are being followed.

The Wild Safe BC website has a host of additional information, recommendations and suggestions for residents to keep their properties safe and to avoid attracting and keeping wildlife in their community.

For people who want to report a bear or other wildlife encounter to Wild Safe, they can contact Fiorito at 250-490-4110, or email .

READ MORE: ‘This is nearly unprecedented’: Five bears killed in Penticton

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Brennan Phillips

About the Author: Brennan Phillips

Brennan was raised in the Okanagan and is thankful every day that he gets to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
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