The addition of two Shuswap-based conservation officers will allow Sicamous to focus on limiting wildlife interactions and becoming more bear aware.
Eric Tyukodi, one of the conservation officers now servicing the North Okanagan Zone, based out of a Salmon Arm field office, presented Sicamous council with an update on bear issues in the area at the May 10 Committee of the Whole meeting. Tyukodi’s colleague, Steve Cook, couldn’t attend but will be available full-time in the region.
The North Okanagan Zone covers Salmon Arm, Sorrento, Tappen, Sicamous, Malakwa, Revelstoke, Enderby, Armstrong, Vernon, Coldstream, Lumby and Cherryville, as well as a few other locations. Those listed are the main centers of concern, said Tyukodi, especially Salmon Arm, Sicamous and Revelstoke. Other officers are based in Vernon.
The North Okanagan Shuswap is prime black bear and grizzly habitat, emphasized Tyukodi, referencing an estimate from 2016 stating there were as many as one million bears across North America and anywhere from 125,000 to 165,000 in B.C., with populations steadily rising.
In Sicamous, Tyukodi said there have been 32 black bear complaints since 2022. Data is only available since last year when the Conservation Officer Service (COS) switched systems, said Tyukodi. A third of those calls involved bears in unprotected garbage, the biggest attractant by far. There were eight grizzly bear complaints, with one ending in a euthanization, as the bear had become too food conditioned, dependent and aggressive, said Tyukodi, adding that euthanization is always the last resort.
Tyukodi said municipalities need to enforce locked, secure garbage containers at residences to reduce the risk of attracting bears. He said there has to be consequences for residents that don’t follow the rules to reduce attractants and enforcement bylaws are an option. The district’s Good Neighbour bylaw has a section that prohibits people from accumulating garbage that attracts rats, which Sicamous has had problems controlling, as well as raccoons and skunks, but Tyukodi said bears aren’t explicitly listed in the bylaw. He hopes to have bears added in an amendment to help the COS, he told council.
Attractant tickets issued by bylaw officers can often carry a heftier fine, said Tyukodi, noting that conservation tickets are often reduced in court and bylaw tickets are less lenient. Municipalities can help a lot in enforcement if they add fines to property taxes, for example.
Noting there had been resistance in the past to developing an attractant bylaw in Salmon Arm, Tyukodi said he wanted to start in Sicamous and gauge the reception.
WildsafeBC is a help to conservation efforts by coordinating efforts, helping build fencing and cleaning fruit off of trees, as well as distributing educational materials, said Tyukodi. The program’s funding fluctuates, however, and although there is an officer working in Vernon, Tyukodi wasn’t sure how far that office covers and if there is interest in hiring another. Revelstoke is a BearSmart community which means they have their own program, so Sicamous and Salmon Arm would need to discuss options and work to assign another officer, said Tyukodi.
Asked if he would be involved in the conservation of regional caribou herds, Tyukodi said he will take over that program fully next year and has already been prepped about budgets and organization, and in conversation with local snowmobile clubs.
He also said tagging and tracking grizzly bears is the jurisdiction of the provincial Fish and Wildlife branch, but he will ask for that service to be provided in the area if council wants, adding that the B.C. government would fund that separately.
Mayor Colleen Anderson mentioned the district’s social media campaign roll out regarding bears and wildlife, and said signage will be going up around Sicamous.
“With more people moving into these areas, they may not understand how to live with wildlife, and are just learning the areas in hunting season,” said Tyukodi. “You’ll always get people that don’t do it, though, that’s why there are enforcement officers.”