More sightings in Saanich, but bear not caught after killing llama

Two more bear sightings in Saanich on Wednesday morning point to a continuing presence of the animals in rural parts of the municipality. The sightings follow a Monday incident on West Saanich Road where a bear killed a llama. A number of sightings have followed but no bears were caught.

The killing of livestock is a little out-of-the-ordinary for bear behaviour in Saanich, said conservation officer Scott Norris. “Typically over the years it’s been more cougars that are doing that, whether it’s Saanich, Central Saanich, Highlands.”

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Norris noted a number of bears killed sheep in Metchosin earlier in the year. John Buchanan of Parry Bay Sheep Farm said this summer that bear attacks have risen significantly since 2012, with 16 or 17 sheep killed this year.

There have been recent sightings of a female bear and two cubs in the Metchosin area, said the farm’s Lorraine Buchanan.

Buchanan said Saanich has seen a growing number of bear calls over the last number of years. “In that strip along West Saanich Road, up past Elk/Beaver Lake, the Prospect Lake area, it’s been definitely an increase in the last five years in that area.”

The Wednesday sightings, believed to be two animals, were around Old West Saanich Road and south of Prospect Lake.

The biggest attraction for bears is garbage, Norris said.

“A lot of residents, they’re complacent, they feel like they’re not in bear country, not realizing they still are in bear country.” Norris said the sightings are coming at the time of year that bears will be feeding through November to fatten up for the winter. “We get a push in bears accessing garbage and human food sources.”

The strong message from the B.C. Conservation Officer Service is to lock up your garbage and pick the fruit from your trees, Norris said.

“That’s what’s going to attract bears to your property, and then that leads to habituation and that leads to euthanization,” he said. “You’ve got bears that are losing their fear of humans because they’ve learn to forage around our residences.

“Bears are curious and they’ve got a great nose on them.”

Having to put a bear down “is the saddest part of it,” Norris said.

“That’s why we’re pushing that message to people, lock up your garbage,” he said. “You should always lock your garbage up somewhere where a bear can’t access it.”

Norris said there were a couple of bears in the Sooke area that had to be put down this year, while a Metchosin farmhand shot a bear that was attacking a sheep.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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