Wildsafe B.C. lists the differences between a black bear and a grizzly bear. (Graphic/Wildsafe B.C.)

WARP: Area wildlife sightings in May included two alleged grizzly sightings

Brown-coloured black bears are often mistaken for grizzlies, Wildsafe B.C. says

Wildlife officials gathered information about two possible grizzly sightings in the Fraser Valley recently – but was it really a grizzly bear?

While black bears are by far the most common animals reported using the Wildlife Alert Reporting Program (WARP), a report came in on May 20 of a grizzly bear sighting in the Agassiz area. According to the limited details of the report, the bear was spotted near Mackay Crescent and was hazed, which means it was driven away from potential human-adjacent food sources, creating a negative experience for the bear in an attempt to repel it from human habitats in the future.

According to Environmental Reporting B.C., there are approximately 15,000 grizzly bears in the province, roughly a quarter of the entire North American population. However, Harrison Mills, Agassiz, Harrison Hot Springs and the District of Kent as well as much of the Fraser Valley are in an area that’s considered among the least viable for grizzlies to live within B.C.. Black bears are much more common, and according to WildSafe B.C., brown-coloured black bears are often misidentified as grizzlies.

From May to the first half of June, two other wildlife calls came from the same area – one black bear and one bobcat, both within five days of the apparent grizzly sighting. Two days after the grizzly sighting was reported in Agassiz, another grizzly sighting was reported southwest of Bridal Veil Falls not far from The Falls Golf Club east of Chilliwack.

RELATED: Be bear aware: Seven black bear sightings call in so far in one week

More viable habitats for grizzly bears aren’t too far away with the closest being in the Hope area going up to Spuzzum, Hell’s Gate and beyond to the north and throughout the Skagit Valley Provincial Park to the south. Ideal grizzly habitats

From the second week of May to the second week of June, WARP reported eight wildlife calls in Agassiz-Harrison, six of which were black bear-related. The most recent call as of publication came from Harrison Hot Springs, where a black bear was spotted near Walnut Avenue in the village. This marks the third time within about 25 days conservation authorities were called into that exact area for a black bear; two calls were sightings while one was reported as an aggressive encounter.

Only one call came from outside Agassiz’s town site and Harrison’s village limits. A black bear was sighted on May 27 on Golf Road.

Elsewhere in the Fraser Valley, there haven’t been wildlife calls in roughly two weeks in Hope, save for a pair of black bear calls one week apart, both reports of bears getting into garbage near Memorial Park.

RELATED: VIDEO: Black bear hops backyard fence to say hello to Abbotsford family

In Chilliwack, 22 WARP calls came in, 15 of which were black bears, only one reported attracted to garbage. Another cluster of calls came in from downtown Chilliwack, where a black bear was reported to be eating from residential berry or fruit trees at the beginning of the month. Two cougar calls came in as well as the grizzly mentioned previously and one coyote.

Abbotsford experienced the second most calls within the eastern Fraser Valley in recent weeks, hitting 46 WARP reports. Of the 46 reports, 30 were black bears, several of which were attracted by a variety of food sources, including garbage, compost and bird feeders. There were five deer reports, five cougar sightings called in and two coyote sightings called in within the past month.

Mission topped the list of area wildlife reports with about 64, a vast majority of which were black bears, attracted by a variety of food sources including fruit and berry trees, compost and garbage. The remaining calls came from three coyote sightings as well as two reports of wolves in the area.

WildSafe B.C. reported 858 black bear related calls of the 1,158 wildlife calls taken last year. June was the peak of human-wildlife conflict last year with smaller spikes hitting in autumn.

Statistically speaking, it’s much more likely to be injured in a wildlife-related vehicle crash than it is to be killed by a bear; on average, Wildsafe reports one fatal black bear attack on humans every five years, on average. Even with that in mind, though, there is a serious need for humans to take precautions for the sake of themselves, their animals and for wildlife.

Of the bear calls taken, 60 per cent were related to bears being attracted to garbage. Wildsafe officials strongly encourage residents to keep garbage containers tightly closed as much as possible. If these containers can’t be stored securely, Wildsafe recommends keeping smelly items frozen until they can be thrown away the morning on which trash is collected.

Other common bear attractants include pet food, compost, barbecues, livestock feed and bird feeders.

For more tips on how to be more aware of wildlife, visit wildsafebc.com.



adam.louis@ahobserver.com

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AgassizbearsFraser Valley Regional DistrictHarrison Hot Springs

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A map of B.C. indicating the most viable grizzly habitats (in green) to the least (in yellow and red).(Graphic/Environmental Reporting B.C.)

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