So far this year, there have been multiple reports of bear and cougar sightings in Surrey.
Because most encounters take place mid-summer to mid-fall, Surrey RCMP are warning residents to watch out for the potentially dangerous wildlife and take precautions to reduce the likelihood of run-ins.
In the first six months of this year, police say conservation officers have received calls about five bear sightings and 42 cougar sightings in Surrey.
In comparison, for all of 2014, there were 21 bear reports and 19 cougar sightings. In 2013, the figures were particularly high, with 254 bear and 76 cougar sightings.
However, officials note the number of sightings can be misleading.
“The conservation officer described it to me this way… he said ‘that may sound like a lot, but it can be just two animals, for example, generating all those calls in a short period of time’,” explained Cpl. Scotty Schumann. “So if you have a bear or cougar that’s not afraid to be in the neighbourhood and hangs around for awhile, you’re going to get big numbers. The numbers don’t say how many animals in the area.”
He said conservation officers indicated the cougar sightings are more common in the South Surrey area.
While most wild animals shy away from human contact, the lure of garbage sometimes trumps their fear.
Surrey police officers work with conservation officers to ensure both the safety of the public and the animals. To prevent attracting a bear of cougar to your neighbourhood, take the following steps:
• Keep garbage inside until pickup day;
• Don’t add meat products or cooked food to compost and keep it covered;
• Pick ripe and fallen fruit daily or remove unused fruit trees;
• Use bird feeders only in winter and keep ground free of seeds;
• Clean barbecue grill after each use and store covered in a secure place;
• Keep pet dishes and food indoors.
If you see a bear or cougar, you’re advised to remain calm and stay away from the animal and bring children and pets inside.
Call the Conservation Officer Service or the 24-hour hotline at 1-877-952-RAPP (7277) and do not attempt to deal with the animal yourself. If a life is in danger, call 911.
For more information on your local Conservation Officer Service and reporting human wildlife conflicts, visit the Ministry Of Environment website.