Despite repeated sightings of a what conservation officers believe was the same cougar in central Sooke last month, the number of reported sightings of cougars, bears, and wolves have dropped off this summer.
But Samantha Webb of Wild Wise Sooke said it’s not unusual for sightings to decrease over the summer months.
“That’s not to say that they aren’t out there,” Webb said.
“It’s just that we’ve starting to become much better neighbours by securing our garbage and other attractants, so fewer bears are becoming habituated, equating human habitation as a food source.”
The lack of bear encounters is also linked to the ready availability of natural food sources in the wild, Webb said.
“The berries are all out now as are a lot of small mammals. There’s no lack of food for the bears and they actually prefer not to be in contact with humans unless there’s a reason.”
Conservation officer Scott Norris warned people should’nt become complacent about securing their garbage because by fall the bears will be looking for high-calorie food sources wherever they can be found.
“With fruit trees ripening, for example, it’s important that the fruit is removed. Those bears are out there and if the fruit is left available, they will come looking for a meal.”
Sooke Food Chi will come and pick the fruit on request – putting it to good use and removing the risk of a bear encounters.
The number of bear sighting tends to cycle with the seasons, Webb said.
In the fall, black bears will make their way to salmon streams to access a natural food source, and during that time, they are likely to come into contact with humans once again.
“They’re just doing what is natural and are there in spite of and not because of the people,” Webb said.
She said in the spring bears are again seen more often as they emerge from their dens hungry and searching for food.
But bears are not the only large mammals around Sooke.
There are definitely cougars, like the one that was sighted in Sooke in July, and a lot of people don’t realize that there are a good number of wolves in the region as well, including the Sooke Hills.
“You really don’t have to worry too much about the wolves. They don’t tend to associate people with a food source so they tend to be seen very rarely,” Norris said.
There’s only been a handful of wolf attacks in the past hundred years. They’re very few and far between.”
The region is also home, not only to deer, but to a significant number of elk.
But there’s another member of the bear family that seems to have decided to make Vancouver Island a summer retreat –grizzly bears.
“There have been sightings up-Island but nothing any further south than about Campbell River,” Norris said.
“Still, it’s important that the residents of the region are aware that they share their home with wildlife and that it’s everyone’s responsibility to do what’s necessary to stay safe and live with the area’s wildlife.”