Berry season brings out the bears

An errant black bear caused a stir Friday when it took a lunch time stroll through Riverdale. Conservation officers received multiple calls about the bear between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., said Melissa Madden, spokesperson for Environment Yukon.

An errant black bear caused a stir Friday when it took a lunch time stroll through Riverdale.

Conservation officers received multiple calls about the bear between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., said Melissa Madden, spokesperson for Environment Yukon.

It was first spotted at Robert Service Campground, and then swam across the Yukon River, she said.

Next it wandered through the grounds of F.H. Collins school and up past Christ the King school, said Madden.

Conservation officers arrived on the scene and saw the bear disappear into the green space west of Lewes Boulevard, she said.

This time of year, Environment is getting calls almost daily about bears sighted in and around Whitehorse, said conservation officer David Bakica in an interview last week.

Bears are munching on abundant berries around town, but so far they haven’t got into much trouble, he said.

There were two bear sightings reported Wednesday of last week, he said. One was at the Robert Service Campground and the other was on Jackson Street, he said.

The day before that, a bear was spotted crossing over the highway near Valleyview and foraging behind Norcan Motors.

“These are bears moving in and around the community,” said Bakica. “There’s numerous places where there are berry patches in and around Whitehorse. They seem to be reasonably happy to set up shop and collect as much nutrition as they can before bedtime.”

It has been a good year for berries, which is good news for bears.

“There’s lots for them to eat. They don’t need to get into any conflict issues with people.”

Earlier in the season there were more issues, said Bakica.

“We’ve had a couple of incidents out in the Takhini Valley with bears that were coming in and around a couple of different agricultural outfits that have chicken coops and have chickens. The bears were trying to help themselves.”

But since the berry season has picked up, “we really haven’t had anything other than sightings,” he said.

But the bears are around, and people need to be aware of them, said Bakica.

“If you’re in the Yukon you can expect to see a bear around just about any bush. There are bear sightings at the end of Main St., downtown Whitehorse.”

With hunting season upon us, it is especially important to remember to get rid of any animal scraps as quickly as possible, he said.

“Get it to the dump, don’t leave it in your compost bins or anything like that.”

Three black bears have been caught and relocated out of Whitehorse this year that Bakica is aware of, he said. And he’s aware of two conflict bears shot by members of the public.

Those numbers have yet to be finalized, since the conservation officers are busy “chasing hunters” at the moment, he said.

But it’s safe to say that the bears are doing better than last year.

In 2012, a poor berry crop saw lots of bears coming into the city, getting into garbage and into trouble.

By this time last year 19 bears had been killed in the Whitehorse area and another 16 were relocated.

That could be part of the reason for decreased conflicts this year, since the local bear population would have taken a significant hit, said Bakica.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at jronson@yukon-news.com