Metchosin-based Parry Bay Sheep Farm has lost roughly 15 animals in the past several weeks to what is believed to be one bear. (Photo courtesy of Parry Bay Sheep Farm/Facebook)

Local sheep farmers face problem bear in Metchosin

While bear attacks aren’t unusual, this particular bear is

One Metchosin sheep farm has lost roughly a dozen animals this summer but that’s not unusual. What’s unusual is the bear believed to be behind the killings doesn’t return to the same kill twice.

John Buchanan, owner of Parry Bay Sheep Farm, estimates they’ve lost at least a dozen sheep in the past several weeks, but likely that number is closer to 15 due to what is believed to be one bear.

“There could be more [dead], we just haven’t got them all home yet,” Buchanan noted. With roughly 300 ewes and 600 lambs, the animals are grazing on several different pastures, some outside of Metchosin.

Last load for today. 81 ewes at the field so far. We still need to bring 20 more ewes and 140 lambs to the field for next weekend's sheepdog trial. They'll enjoy snacking on the Queen Anne's lace in the field.

Posted by Parry Bay Sheep Farm on Sunday, July 30, 2017

“We average about 25 a year [lost] to cougars or bears or both,” he said, estimating they’ve lost one animal to a cougar this year.

Over the past 20 years Buchanan noted they have had to worry more about cougars, who tend to kill more animals at once, than bears, which tend to kill one animal at a time. “We never had bear trouble before the past five years,” he added.

That may be because more dogs used to scare away these larger predators. “It used to be acceptable to have your pet dog out at night,” he said. Now, many people have their animals locked up at night.

While this means they haven’t lost as many animals in the past two decades to dog attacks, he noted it could be a contributing factor to the increase in bear attacks.

“The thing about this one is he doesn’t come back to the kill,” Buchanan said. Typically, he added, bears usually return to get a second meal. “Unless we catch him, it’s just going to carry on and on.”

Buchanan noted conservation officers believe it is the same bear based on its behaviour and physical descriptions from those in the area who have seen it.

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service did not respond to interview requests in time for the Gazette’s press deadline.

Buchanan noted conservation officers have been monitoring the bear and attempting to capture it. “I don’t want them to shoot bears indeterminately but this one needs to be dealt with,” he said.

But it’s not just bears, cougars and dogs the farmer has to watch out for. Like most farmers in the region, he’s also battling with geese and has lost an entire barley field.

“It didn’t seed very well so there was openings in it,” Buchanan said, adding the geese don’t like landing in a full field because they can’t see predators.

Despite string and other deterrents, he estimated more than 100 geese were in the field earlier this week. “They’ll have eaten it before it’s ripe,” he said. “Once they find it, they don’t leave.”

Like many farmers in the region, he’s tried everything from noise makers to reflective tape to fencing but to no avail. “If we chase them off they’ll just land on someone else’s field,” he added.

Since the crop didn’t seed as well as it should have, and other factors still lingering from the cold spring, Buchanan predicted they would have received about $3,000 for the field. But since they’ve had so much trouble with the geese, he’ll let the sheep graze on the field and recoup some of his losses that way.

“If it had been a really good crop, it would have been hard,” he added.

katie@goldstreamgazette.com

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