Kitimat residents WILL see more bears this year

Clearing of brush for industrial development has displaced them

The district’s Conservation Officer Service says the clearing of brush to make way for industrial projects will have an impact on the movement of bears through the community.

Conservation officer Scott Senkiw said Conservation Officer Service (COS) has seen a change in the movement of bears since clearing began.

“There has definitely been some displacement of bears with the advancement of industry and clearing of brush,” said Senkiw.

He said the disruption was occurring along the Kitimat River shoreline leading out into the estuary, but added that the COS hadn’t received significantly more calls from the public than it had this time last year.

”Looking at the reported numbers I feel that this year is shaping up like last year. With regards to problem type bears, the situation has been pretty good – most of the reports have just been sightings,” said Senkiw.

He said there is a very healthy population of black and grizzly bears this year

“Long-time residents are saying that we have very healthy animals this year. Last year they were long-legged and scrawny.

I don’t feel there will be a problem this year,” he added.

He said while COS received a lot of third-party information through social media groups dedicated to bear sightings, he still encouraged people to also use the RAPP line to report bear sightings. Providing as accurate a description of the bear as possible is also very helpful for officers.

Referring to social media reports of a cyclist being charged by a bear on Smelter Way, Senkiw said that it was important for the community to report these incidents formally, through the RAPP line.

Senkiw added that the message about keeping attractants out of the bears’ way seems to be getting through to the community.

However, he said the majority of incidents where bears showed aggression, including bluff charging, stemmed from off-leash dogs.

“In most of the cases there always seems to be one dog off-leash. While the presence of larger breed dogs is a deterrent for large bears, when that dog isn’t on leash, the dog is free to engage that bear.

“Bears generally just want to go on their way and not be disturbed,” said Senkiw.

He said with an influx of people into the district seeing a bear close and upfront “can be very exciting.”

“I want to encourage people to give them a wide birth. While it’s great to observe them we encourage people to give them the space they need,” said Senkiw.

He added that COS had been approached by JGC-Fluor for their input on how to mitigate the effect of the development on the bears.

“They welcomed our advice on keeping interactions at a minimum. The companies have a vested interest in keeping their workers safe,” said Senkiw.

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