The Bear Smart Community Program is a proactive conservation strategy developed by the Ministry of Environment in partnership with the British Columbia Conservation Foundation and the Union of British Columbia Municipalities. This program encourages efforts by the community, local businesses and individuals to reduce/prevent human-bear conflicts thereby increasing public safety.
In 2008, the BC Conservation Officer Service received approximately 240 bear complaints from residents in the District of Sooke. Five bears had to be destroyed as a result of bear/human conflict. This level of interaction establishes Sooke as being a community with one of the highest levels of human/bear conflicts in the province. It is important for communities to become “Bear Smart” and reduce attractants and to reduce conflicts.
If you see a bear:
- Remain calm: don’t panic.
- Keep away from the bear and bring children and pets indoors.
- Never approach the bear and do not run from it.
- Warn others of the bear’s presence, without yelling.
- Once the bear has left, check your yard to ensure there are no attractants available.
If the bear is threatening call the Conservation Officer Service at:
1 877 952-RAPP (7277) or local RCMP.
For more information about being BEAR AWARE check out this website at wildsafebc.com/
Cities and towns have many natural areas that support black-tailed deer. Urban deer populations benefit from abundant food and shelter. They have few natural predators and bylaws prohibit hunting them within city limits. As a result, urban deer populations have tremendous growth potential.
Deer sometimes damage gardens, shrubs, fruit trees and other public or private property. They can be a threat to human health and safety when they wander onto roadways and collide with vehicles. They can also carry deer ticks, which may transmit Lyme disease to humans.
The challenge is to find an acceptable balance between the number of deer in the District and the associated risk to people and their property.
Do Not Feed the Deer
It is extremely important that people do not feed deer. Deer can find natural food sources and survive well on their own. In fact, handouts from humans may do the deer more harm than good:
- Feeding deer, especially during winter, maintains artificially high populations that make deer more susceptible to starvation and disease.
- Deer become accustomed to food handouts and lose their fear of humans, putting both deer and people at greater risk.
- Feeding deer attracts more of them to an area resulting in more damage to nearby properties.
- Feeding encourages deer to travel, increasing risks when they cross streets.
The BC Conservation Officer Service (http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/cos/) has authority under British Columbia Wildlife Act to order people to stop feeding deer if it creates a risk of property damage or a risk to health and safety for wildlife or people.
What You Can Do
To find out more about what you can do to minimize or reduce the damage caused by deer to your property go to the Ministry of Environment’s website (http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/cos/info/wildlife_human_interaction/docs/garden.html).
Honey Bee Swarm Hotline
Help! I’ve got a swarm of bees in my yard! Don’t panic. Just call a local beekeeper. In Sooke, you can contact the Swarm Phone Tree at 250-900-5787.
The Swarm Committee member will do their best to find someone who will attempt to remove the bees for you, for free. Note that they will only remove honeybees and only if it can be safely done. You may still need to call an exterminator if the bees turn out to be wasps or some other bee-like creatures.
Do you have a swarm? Are you sure?
A swarm will move as a big cloud of thousands of bees, buzzing very noisily. They will settle on something (usually a tree, but it could be anything, even open ground). When they do, they will form a solid mass of bees about the size of a football and sometimes much larger.
What is a swarm?
A swarm is a group of settler bees, heading out to find a new home. They are a natural part of how bees have survived for millions of years. There will be a queen at the centre and thousands of female workers around her. In addition, hundreds of other bees will be acting as scouts. They fly out to find a suitable cavity to build the new hive in and report back.
Is a swarm dangerous? Can I get stung?
Not usually, but yes possibly. A swarm is much more interested in finding a new home than in stinging you. And normally the bees are gorged on honey and quite calm. But they get testy if they have been out in the open for a few days. So it’s better not to get too close.
Species at Risk
The District of Sooke is home to two species (streambank lupine and the blue-grey taildropper slug) that have been listed as endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Both of these species occur along the banks of the Sooke River. The lupine occurs within the Sooke Potholes Provincial Park and thus is afforded some protection within the park. The blue-grey taildropper slug is known to occur adjacent to the Galloping Goose Regional Trail along Sooke River Road. The critical habitat (older forests with a deciduous component) of this species is threatened by habitat loss from recreational use and habitat loss from urban development.
The entire District is considered habitat to the ermine (Auguinae subspecies) and potentially Keen’s myotis (a bat). The ermine is blue-listed 1 by the BC Conservation Data Centre (BC CDC) and appears to prefer low elevation sites near the ocean, rivers, creeks and estuaries. They can be seen occasionally on Whiffin Spit. Keen’s myotis is red-listed by the BC CDC and is believe to nest in tree cavities, rock crevices and small caves. They are believed to hunt along forest edges and openings as well as over ponds.
The District of Sooke has the only known occurrence of the Nevada marsh fern in Canada and is red-listed by the BC CDC. An additional four blue-listed plant species occur within the District.
- Pacific waterleaf is widely dispersed in the moist woodlands and stream banks.
- Common bluecup can be found in moist seepages around the Sooke River.
- Fleshy jaumea is found in moist tidal beaches and salt marshes in the lowland zone.
- Macoun’s groundsel is found in the dry open forests, disturbed areas and rock outcrops of the District.
In 2005, bald eagles nested at three locations (two additional inactive nests) within the District. Four chicks fledged from these nests. Habitat loss and degradation as well as shooting the animal for their feathers, are considered key threats to this species. This species is not listed by the BC CDC or by COSEWIC.
Great blue herons, listed as Special Concern by COSEWIC, are also known to use habitat within the District of Sooke. No up-to-date information is available on nesting and roosting sites for the area. Human activity near heron colonies poses the largest threat to this subspecies (COSEWIC 2008).