Reports of black bears were up significantly in Okanagan Westside communities in 2021 over 2020.
WildsafeBC’s annual report shows there were 412 sightings last year compared to 250 the year before. Okanagan Westside communities include West Kelowna, Westbank First Nation, Peachland and the Central Okanagan West Electoral Area. The West Kelowna and Westbank First Nation areas had the largest proportion of black bear reports, with 50 per cent of the overall reports for the Central Okanagan.
The exceptionally high level of bear activity is believed to be due to drought conditions that reduced the natural food availability, as well as wildfires, which resulted in increased bear movements to adjacent habitats. In August, when the area had two active wildfires nearby, there were 111 black bear reports. When compared to the monthly average of 31 reports between 2016 and 2020, it adds up to an increase of 358 per cent. September to November 2021 also saw far above-average increases in black bear reports.
While it is normal to see an increase in black bear sightings during the fall, the substantial increase in 2021 over the previous five years suggests exceptional circumstances. With the uncertainty in future environmental conditions due to climate change, there may continue to be increases in human-bear conflicts locally, the report states.
Deer were the most reported species in the Central Okanagan last year with 831 reports, followed by black bears at 695. Coyotes and cougars were third and fourth with 86 and 80 reports respectively. The report notes that 67 per cent of the deer reports were in the City of Kelowna.
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