This grizzly bear was recently seen in Castlegar eating pears.

Fruit trees attracting too many bears in Castlegar

Conservation officers are encouraging residents to pick fruit and maintain trees to reduce bear conflicts.

Every year as the weather begins to cool and things begin to feel more like fall, bear sightings and conflicts increase, but local conservation officers and awareness groups would really like to see that change.

For this season, black bear complaints to the local conservation office have numbered 112 with most of those occurring in August and September and revolving around fruit trees. “We had a perfect spring for bears — early, lush, warm, tons of vegetation, lots of low elevation berries,” explained conservation officer Ben Beetlestone. “But those natural food sources have now shriveled up and are becoming nonexistent.”

Those calls have resulted in six bears having to be euthanized for aggressive or threatening behaviour.

“Its shaping up to be a very busy fall,” said Beetlestone. “No more natural foods are going to become available.” With another six weeks or so to go of bears being in the valley bottoms this is concerning. “It’s only going to get busier if we don’t maintain our fruit trees.”

There have even been a few reports of grizzly bear sightings, though they are unconfirmed as to whether they were actually grizzly bears, or just brown-coloured black bears. Most of those reports came from the Grandview Heights area on a single day. Similar reports came in during the same time last year over one or two days, causing conservation officers to speculate that it is indeed a grizzly who has made that neighbourhood part of its fall foraging route.

“Overall the community has made good efforts securing their garbage — which is the primary attraction in the spring,” explained Beetlestone. “But now we need to get people to focus more on their fruit trees — especially unmaintained fruit trees. If you don’t deal with your attractants, you are going to have a bear in your yard.”

Conservation officers don’t get involved every time someone calls to complain about a bear eating their fruit. Their policy is to only get involved if the bear is exhibiting aggressive or threatening behaviour that puts the public at risk.

Unpicked or unmaintained fruit trees in and around town are a wide-spread problem especially in Brilliant and the south end of Castlegar. “Ultimately the bear will lose out if it continues to hang around,” said Beetlestone. “I certainly do not want to have to put down any more bears this year. I would rather have people just manage their attractants,” he concluded.

If you have concerns about an aggressive bear, report it to the RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277.

If you have fruit trees that you need help picking, you can contact the Castlegar Harvest Pickers by sending an email to castlegarharvestpickers@gmail.com. The group will schedule a time to come pick your trees, with the harvest being divided three ways between the property owner, the pickers and community groups such as the food bank.