British Columbia

Bear sightings on the rise in the Lower Mainland, officials say

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service said 3,200 bear sightings have been reported since April. Last year, there were 4,500 reported sightings in total.

3,200 animal sightings already reported in the area, compared to 4,500 total last season

3,200 bear sightings have been reported since April compared to 4,500 sightings last season, according to the B.C. Conservation Officer Service. (Bill Roth/AP)

B.C. conservation officials say they have seen a large spike in bear sightings in the Lower Mainland compared to last year.

Insp. Murray Smith of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service said 3,200 sightings have been reported since April. Last year, there were 4,500 reported sightings in total.

"We're two-thirds of the way to the total number of bears we had last year, so we expect this year to be considerably higher than last year," said Smith.

Bear sightings are up across the province, he said, though not as dramatically as in the Lower Mainland. 

He said there have been 7,400 reported sightings province-wide since April. Last season, there were 12,000 total.

Bear attacks still rare

Despite the higher numbers, there has not been a rise in attacks or encounters, Smith said. 

"We have some of the best bear habitat in the world in the Lower Mainland, so subsequently we're gonna have conflict," he said.

"But bear attacks are extremely rare."

He also said it's hard to pin down exactly why there have been more bear sightings this year compared to last.

"It's possible that the spring was a bit drier and there was less early season food sources for bears, but I can't confirm that."

Conservation officials are warning residents in bear-populated areas to limit access to food sources by keeping them in their cars while camping and bringing in any fruit from their yards.

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