Though a population growth has yet to be confirmed, residents are reporting more bears on the prowl this year.
“We do have anecdotal evidence that shows there may have been a spike,” said Casidhe Dyke, big game ecosystem management ecologist for the Department of Environment and Conservation.
The Department of Natural Resources has reported more than 600 bear complaints so far this year. But the actual number is likely higher, since the data for some districts of the province is unavailable.
However, Dyke said, whether or not there has been a growth in the population this year cannot yet be confirmed.
The Department of Environment and Conservation has been tracking the bear population using grids, but results won’t be available until later in the fall.
Half of complaints from Glovertown
“The most complaints we’ve had have been up and around the Glovertown area,” Dyke said. More than 50 per cent of reported complaints were from that part of the island.
In past years, he said, it’s been Baie Verte that’s had the bear problem. In both cases, wildlife biologists have visited the communities to discuss safety concerns with residents.
He said an increased number of bear sightings could be due to any number of factors. For example, a good berry season might have meant an increase in bear activity.
“Nuts and berries tend to be a major source of protein for bears,” Dyke said. But he said it’s all speculative at this point.
Recently, the province closed a number of rural dumps and amalgamated them into larger landfill sites, but Dyke said there’s no proof the decision has directly affected bear activity.
“There’s nothing to say specifically that the closure of dumps would draw bears to town,” he said. Bears use the dump only as a secondary food source, and don’t rely on it for survival.
“They almost treat it as a snack,” Dyke said.
He advises bird lovers and pet owners to be wary.
“Bird feed and pet food attracts the bears,” he said.
He said any communities that have reoccurring bear sightings should be careful from year to year.
“Bears that are just passing through town pose much less of a risk,” he said. It’s the ones that linger that can be dangerous.
Dyke said making sure food and waste is stored properly can significantly reduce encounters with bears.
“The biggest one is making sure around the home is clean and tidy,” he said.