VANCOUVER ISLAND, B.C. – The BC Conservation Service is seeing a huge jump in bear calls on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast.

COS Deputy chief Chris Doyle said that in April and May, the number of bear calls has increased by more than 1,000 compared to previous years.

Calls to the COS RAPP line totalled 3,826 for black bears and 182 for grizzlies.

The average over the past eight years has been 2,400 black bear calls and 82 grizzly bear calls.

On the North Island, the COS fielded 74 black bear calls from the Campbell River/Courtenay area in May.

That’s up from 16 in April, a 362 percent increase.

According to the COS, Courtenay-Comox bear activity is high in many areas of the cities, including Anderton near Ryan Road, Huband Road, Powerhouse, Back Road, Spitfire Drive, and Avro Drive.

With this in mind, the service is asking residents to make sure they don’t have “accessible attractants” on their properties in their yards.

This includes garbage, bird feeders, greasy barbecues, pet food, recycling, and compost bins.

The service notes that it is a wildlife offence to leave an attractant available to bears.

It also said garbage left out on the curbside the night before pickup is a significant issue, as bears have free access to this garbage during the night.

This habituates bears to a non-natural food source, which creates public safety issues when the bears then become dependent and motivated to access garbage.

Livestock like chickens and ducks must be properly penned as well the COS added. Electric fencing is a key protective measure, as it’s the only fencing that is bear proof.

If you have fruit trees expect that with the hot and dry weather that bears will be highly attracted to your fruit.

Install fences now, ahead of the fruit season. Pick fruit as soon as it begins to ripen. Do not allow the fruit to drop and accumulate on the ground.

Bears that become habituated to feeding on fruit in residential areas often become a public safety threat as they become desensitized to human presence, and they associate residential backyards as a food source.

Members of the public can consult the Wildsafe BC website for tips to reduce conflict with wildlife. Visit https://wildsafebc.com/