Heading into the fall, conservation officers said bears will be focused on filling their bellies by eating off fruit trees before they head into hibernation at the end of October. To avoid the unwanted visitors, residents should remove fruit from trees when it’s ripe. (Black Press file photo)

Heading into the fall, conservation officers said bears will be focused on filling their bellies by eating off fruit trees before they head into hibernation at the end of October. To avoid the unwanted visitors, residents should remove fruit from trees when it’s ripe. (Black Press file photo)

Fall is bear season, says conservationist

A local conservation officer says Monday’s sighting of bear and her cub is a sign of things to come.

As summer has given away to fall, we can expect to see more bears looking for food, said Peter Pauwels, a conservation officer with B.C.’s Ministry of Environment.

“They are getting ready for hibernation,” he said.

Granted, the location of Monday’s sighting near Queen Alexandra Hospital was unusual. More common locations for sightings include West Saanich Road, Prospect Lake and other areas west of the Patricia Bay Highway, he said. In fact, this summer witnessed a number of sightings in those areas.

This said, bears everywhere are looking for food and fall offers access to fruit. Those with fruit trees can follow a few simple tricks if they want to avoid unwanted visitors.

“Pick the fruit as soon as soon it ripens,” he said. Pauwels also encouraged fruit tree owners to get rid of them if they do not use the fruit.

“Bears are all about food now,” he said.

This means among others measures securely storing anything and everything that could attract bears, such as compost, various types of animal food and garbage.

“They [bears] are opportunists,” he said.

They are also appearing in larger areas in rural areas throughout the Greater Victoria area. The Highlands area has record a number ofbear sightings, prompting B.C. conservation officers to remind residents to lock up their garbage.

Records show 31 complaints about bears between April and September, compared to 15 between April and November

The rise in complaints are likely due to an increase in both the bear and human population, said Pauwels, noting one or two problem bears generated roughly half of the calls.

Police are asking residents to report any sightings of these animals to Saanich Police or the BC Conservation Service.

With files from Kendra Wong