Local wildlife conservation officers received more than 190 calls in 2018 regarding wildlife coming into conflict with humans just within the boundaries of the Municipality of North Cowichan alone.
Of those, 62 calls were regarding black bears, 66 involved deer and 40 were concerned with cougars, according to information provided by WildSafeBC, a program delivered by the British Columbia Conservation Foundation to reduce human-wildlife conflict through education, innovation and cooperation.
In total, these calls represent 34 per cent of all the calls regarding wildlife/human conflicts in the entire region.
Unsecured storage of garbage cans and dumpsters between garbage collection days, as well as unmanaged fruit trees, continue to be the main wildlife attractants and leading cause of human-bear conflict, says WildSafeBC in a letter to the municipality.
“With limited options, the Conservation Officer Service may be required to destroy black bears as relocations are often unsuccessful and can lead to poor outcomes for the bears,” according to the letter.
In addition, increasing numbers of deer in urban locations draws cougars into residential areas.
“It is important to note that a large number of human-wildlife issues are not reported to the Conservation Officer Service, therefore it is expected that the actual number of sightings, and potential conflicts, is higher than reported,” according to the letter, coauthored by Vanessa Isnardy, provincial coordinator for WildSafe BC.
North Cowichan’s council agreed at its meeting on Feb. 6 to Isnardy’s request that the municipality join the Town of Ladysmith and the Cowichan Valley Regional District in supporting the work of WildSafeBC to reduce human-wildlife conflicts by contributing up to $3,000 in 2019 towards the work of a seasonal coordinator.
In response to a plea for assistance from local conservation officers in 2015, the CVRD and Ladysmith partnered with WildSafeBC to have a community coordinator educate residents, businesses and visitors on how to reduce human-wildlife conflicts.
The coordinator, who is active from May to November, the months with the highest potential for human-bear and other wildlife conflicts, is funded in part by a grant from WildSafeBC.
“To date, the CVRD, Ladysmith and a number of private partners have committed to funding contributions totalling $9,500,” Isnardy said in the letter to the municipality.
“As well, we are waiting for confirmation from two additional private business partners. Your contribution will directly translate to hours that the coordinator can spend delivering the WildSafeBC program in your community.”