This summer has been a slower one than previous years for Conservation Officers in Merritt, a sign that Merrittonians are doing their part to be bear aware and maintain their properties. The Nicola Valley has seen little bear activity or human conflict with wildlife in general this season, and
Merritt Conservation Officer Service is encouraging locals to keep playing their important role.

The Herald sat down with a member of the Merritt Conservation Officer Service to take a look back over this summer of enforcing natural resource laws and responding to human-wildlife conflicts. The service looks to use education as a means to take a proactive response, rather than reactive. Luckily, Merrittonians have made that easy.

“Things have been pretty good this summer, we’re not noticing anything out of the ordinary in the Merritt area,” said Tyler Kerr, conservation officer for Merritt.

“Enforcement wise, we’ve been responding to complaints of unlawful fishing, human-wildlife conflict regarding deer, and maybe one bear complaint in the last little while. That means there’s lots of food for the bears, and hopefully means everybody is taking more responsibility with their attractants.”

Kerr added that Merrittonians should keep up the good work. While attractants such as garbage cans should be put away as we leave summer and move into the fall season, they aren’t the only thing that may bring bears too close for comfort. Properties untidy with fruit from trees, and vegetables in the garden, are at risk of an unwanted visitor.
“Any fruits or vegetables that can ripen in cold storage need to be picked up, and make sure to secure garbage. It’s important to secure the trash so that bears moving through town can’t get into it.”

While reported close encounters with bears haven’t been high this season, these incidents can occur. Those who may encounter a bear are reminded not to turn around and run, but instead make themselves look as big as possible, speaking in a calm voice to the bear, and backing away while making eye contact.

Kerr urges those who have an encounter with wildlife to contact the Conservation Officer Service, as it allows them to track these rare incidents, as well as put a stop to the problem before bears get too comfortable in city limits.

“The number of bear calls seems to be a bit less than what we would typically see, which tells me that people are starting to buy in and take care of their properties the way they should, in order to protect the bears. It’s a community effort, and everybody has a role to play,” added Kerr.

Those wishing to report a conflict with wildlife that threatens public safety can call 1-877-952-7277.