Bear sightings up this season, conservation officer notes

The frequency of bear sightings around populated areas of Saskatchewan is higher this year, according to a conservation officer who has fielded more than 40 reports in the La Ronge area so far this summer.

Bears expected to stick to the bush now that berries are available

A conservation officer releases a bear to the woods. (Video: Ministry of Environment) 3:49

The frequency of bear sightings around populated areas of Saskatchewan is higher this year, according to a conservation officer who has fielded more than 40 reports in the La Ronge area so far this summer.

"We thought we were over the hump here about three or four days ago — we hadn't had a call in a couple days — and it was looking pretty good," Derek Keast, a conservation officer for the province's environment ministry based in La Ronge, told CBC News. "Then the last two days we've been going pretty steady, both day and night, with calls coming in."

Keast has already captured 11 bears and released them to areas further away from settlements. Seven of the animals were caught in La Ronge itself, the most recent early on Thursday morning.

In some cases the animals are caught using bear traps, other times a tranquilizer gun is used.

Keast believes the bears were attracted to La Ronge by food, in garbage areas of the community, because the late spring delayed the development of berries. He's hoping now that berries are finally plentiful, bears will stick to the bush.

People who live in La Ronge said they are not overly concerned about bears.

"I haven't left my dogs outside by themselves as much as I usually do, but it doesn't make me nervous," Rachael Steinke told CBC News.

"I just make sure that there's more than me walking," Caron Giesbrecht, another La Ronge local, said. "It's like any city life where you don't walk alone anymore.  And here you don't walk alone because of the wildlife."

Keast is also trying to educate people about the hazards of not tending to garbage securely, noting the best way to keep bears at bay is to not give them an incentive to enter the community.

With files from CBC's Ryan Pilon

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