Conservation officers search for a black bear in the Riverdale area in Whitehorse on Sept. 17. It’s been an average year for bear conflict in the territory, according to staff from the Department of Environment. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Conservation officers search for a black bear in the Riverdale area in Whitehorse on Sept. 17. It’s been an average year for bear conflict in the territory, according to staff from the Department of Environment. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Average year for bear-human conflict, say conservation officials

“We want to get this number as low as we possibly can.”

It’s been an average year for bear conflict in the territory, according to staff from the Department of Environment.

“This past season is encouraging but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. We want to get this number as low as we possibly can,” said Whitehorse district conservation officer David Backica.

“Yukoners need to remember that they’re putting themselves and wildlife at risk when they fail to manage their attractants. Yukoners also need to remember that all of the Yukon is bear country,” he said.

In total Backica said there were 134 incidents of human-bear conflict recorded this past year. In the past year 30 bears total were killed, 21 by conservation officers and nine in incidents in defense of life or property.

Black bears made up 21 of the deaths, while nine grizzly bears were killed.

Those numbers are slightly lower than 2019 when 33 bears were killed in the territory. Those totals are half of the number of bears killed in 2017, when 63 bears were killed in an unusually high year.

Studies by the department into bear conflict continue.

The department has deployed six electronic collars this year in order to track bears who are relocated to new areas after a conflict situation. Five black bears and one grizzly are being tracked.

“Translocation is one of the few non-lethal tools available to conservation officers when dealing with bears and conflict. We want to know if the bears survive after being translocated and if they return to their home range or if they remain in the area where they were translocated,” Backica said.

The research project is planned to take place over five years and will help fill in the gaps about how successful translocation has been, he said.

Backica said the most common situation leading to conflict this year was unsecured garbage or compost. Other common attractants were backyard bird feeders, uncleaned recycling, berry bushes, unsecured pet food and meat caches and hung meat from successful hunters.

“Once rewarded, bears are likely to remain in the area of putting people in property and themselves at risk as they continue to try to access these human-created food sources,” Backica said, adding that many people forget attractants still need to be managed in the winter.

He noted a grizzly bear was recently spotted on the ski trails in Haines Junction despite the late season. Backica said if Yukoners are using bear spray in the winter they should keep it warm close to their bodies.

The Yukon government, City of Whitehorse and WildWise Yukon are also testing out a new bear-proof bin pilot project.

Backica said the project is still in the pilot phase, but in previous iterations, it’s been the “human factor” that has gone wrong, where people struggled to secure the bins properly. He said the new technology being tested has an automatic, gravity-engaged system that will be compatible with municipal garbage pickup.

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com

bearsEnvironment Yukon

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