Clayton Lamb is one member of a team of biologists that have been studying the population of grizzly bears in the Elk Valley for the past 11 years. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Clayton Lamb is one member of a team of biologists that have been studying the population of grizzly bears in the Elk Valley for the past 11 years. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

VIDEO: Carcass pits making bear problem worse in southeastern B.C.

“Getting those carcasses off the landscape should improve human and bear safety.” - Clayton Lamb

According to an Elk Valley grizzly bear biologist, co-existing with grizzly bears is possible but will require major change.

Look back: Spike in Jaffray bear calls cause for concern

Grizzly bear biologist Clayton Lamb believes many locals may feel unheard, or hopeless in dealing with human-bear conflicts at home or in the bush. He says that the data-based evidence required to promote change is there, but it will require everyone to work together as a community to help fix the issue.

Lamb’s comments come after a spike in grizzly bear conflicts in Jaffray prompted a public meeting attended by close to 200 people this month. In 2018, there were 38 calls out of Jaffray regarding bear conflicts, as compared to almost no calls in 2017.

Lamb believes change comes in a variety of forms; from managing rural attractants in backyards and road densities, and stopping the use of carcass pits. That being said, he believes that the continued use of carcass pits in the South Country is driving this increase in bear traffic.

The current method of roadkill disposal is to dump the carcasses in designated pits. The Ministry of Transport allows highway contractor Mainroad to dispose of roadkill in this manner.

There are at least four active bonepits in the Elk Valley; the first just outside Jaffray, Tunnel Pit (near Tunnel Creek), Brule Pit (between Sparwood and Elkford) and Fir Creek (near the Corbin turnoff).

In addition to the ministry allowing the disposal of roadkill in the Jaffray bonepit, Lamb explained that hunters and ranchers also dump remains there.

Year round, carcasses are dropped at several pits around the Valley, one of which is close to Jaffray and residential properties. Tracking data collected by scientists shows grizzly bears using those pits and sleeping near them as well.

“What we’re seeing is that the bears are completely collapsing their home ranges on these carcass pits,” said Lamb.

“They’re getting served up a whole elk every couple of days and we’ll see upwards of eight or nine grizzly bears using a single pit at any time.”

The biologist explained that other jurisdictions in the Elk Valley saw the exact opposite trend in grizzly bear conflicts last year, with Elkford decreasing from about 25 calls in 2017 to less than five reports in 2018.

“The pattern has completely flipped in Elkford,” said Lamb.

“They had intense conflict in 2017 and almost none last year. And in Sparwood, their conflict calls halved.”

Lamb explained that a few bears can move from town to town and cause conflict as they go. He further explained that three or four, but not dozens of bears were the cause for many of the 38 calls reported in Jaffray last year.

The Kokanee salmon spawn could also be to blame for the increase in Jaffray bear calls last year. One of the largest salmon spawns in the area is located within Jaffray town limits.

This has been a long-standing problem since the 1970s when Kokanee salmon were accidentally introduced into Lake Koocanusa.

Lamb explained that this issue is hard for authorities to manage as compared to the carcass pits, which is a solvable issue. He suggested that a possible solution to the salmon problem could lie in allowing more liberal harvesting.

Although the population of grizzly bears in the Elk Valley is robust, these conflicts with humans contribute to the very low bear survival rate in the Valley and previously documented population declines.

“Grizzly bears in the Elk Valley have some of the lowest survival rates in all of North America due to many sources of mortality,” said Lamb.

“They have conflict in town, we have a major railway that runs through town, a highway, conflict in backcountry hunting camps and things like that.”

Lamb is a PhD Candidate with the South Rockies Grizzly Bear Project, and one member of a team of biologists that has been studying the population of grizzly bears in the Elk Valley for the past 11 years.

The team saw the local population of grizzly bears decline from 2006 to 2013 and have since watched it rebound.

Numbers are not yet at pre-2006 levels but are slowly increasing. Lamb said good berry crops in the past six years have contributed to this increase.

He and his colleagues will continue to monitor grizzly bears in the Valley, and Lamb hopes that the evidence they have gathered about the carcass pits will help spur on a change.

Lamb said this would be a win-win for both wildlife and the people in the Elk Valley.

According to Lamb, the Regional District of East Kootenay is currently reviewing their waste management plan and one of their options is to introduce a community composting system. This would allow the ministry, as well as hunters and ranchers, to dispose of carcasses in a way that would not attract wildlife.

“This could yield gains for people and wildlife,” said Lamb.

“Getting those carcasses off the landscape should improve human and bear safety.

“I think that keeping people safe and keeping bears further away from people would be something a lot of people in the Valley would get behind – regardless of where you stand on wildlife management.”



editor@thefreepress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

grizzly

Just Posted

Outdoor vendors at the Cloverdale Flea Market are seen in this bird’s eye view image from the flea market’s Facebook page.
Cloverdale Flea Market to reopen

Market to open June 20 after being closed since Nov. 2020

Ian MacDonald, spokesman for Surrey Police Service. (Submitted photo)
Surrey Police Service launches public consultation campaign

This is to help the SPS form its first strategic plan

A new driver was fined for excessive speed early June 6, 2021, after being pulled over on White Rock's Marine Drive. (White Rock RCMP Twitter photo)
Pricey penalty for new driver clocked at 112 km/h in White Rock

19-year-old Burnaby man’s vehicle impounded

teaser photo only.
Surrey ‘POP!’ series promises ‘Performances Outdoors in Parks’ this summer

Ticketed concerts, theatre shows and other events start July 9

TEASER PHOTO ONLY
Surrey RCMP looking for missing boy, age 13

Steven Vail was last seen at 8 a.m. after arriving at Frank Hurt Secondary but did not show up for his 8:30 a.m. class.

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers tested more than 230 commonly used cosmetics and found that 56% of foundations and eye products, 48% of lip products and 47% of mascaras contained high levels of fluorine

White Rock’s Marine Drive has been converted to one-way traffic to allow more patio space for waterfront restaurants. (Peace Arch News)
Province promotes permanent pub patios in B.C. post-pandemic plan

More than 2,000 temporary expansions from COVID-19 rules

Most Read