A black bear is seen grazing by the Kumdis River. (Archie Stocker Sr./Haida Gwaii Observer file photo)

A black bear is seen grazing by the Kumdis River. (Archie Stocker Sr./Haida Gwaii Observer file photo)

Open food waste makes Old Massett bear tough to trap

Residents asked to report anyone dumping fish waste above the high-tide line

Unsecured deer carcasses and fish waste dumped above the high-tide line are making it tough to trap a problem bear in Old Massett.

“That’s probably the biggest issue we’re facing right now,” says Sergeant Kyle Ackles, a local conservation officer.

“The bear has no reason to go in the trap because there’s so much food available.”

A black bear has been reported outside Chief Matthews Elementary School and other places in Old Massett for several weeks, and conservation officers have already tried to trap it.

They will set another trap Wednesday morning, but Ackles said the bear is unlikely to go into the dark, metal culvert that holds the bait if he can find plenty of food in more comfortable places.

With deer season underway at the same time bears are trying to fatten up for winter, Ackles said it’s extra important to set any deer hangs in a shed or closed structure.

Residents are also asked to report anyone who dumps fish, crab waste or other attractants on beaches above the high-tide line by phoning 1-877-952-7277.

Ackles said such dumping is the main reason for human/bear conflicts in Haida Gwaii villages this year, and anyone caught doing it will be charged.

“When it’s above the high-tide line, it’s obviously not going to get washed out,” he said.

“If it’s next to a residential area, it’s going to bring predators like bears to the community — they’re going to go through the community to get to that.”

While Haida Gwaii is warm enough and has enough wild food that some bears don’t fully hibernate, they still try to fatten up every fall. Reports of human/bear conflicts often don’t tail off until early December, Ackles said.

Already this year there have been several reports of bears killing goats and sheep, or getting into garbage, and the reports have come from Sandspit, Skidegate, Tlell, and Old Massett. Charges are also pending in one of three investigations involving illegal bear hunting on Haida Gwaii this year.

“In the near future, I’m going to be working with all the communities on Haida Gwaii to try to come up with a strategy to reduce the number of conflicts we have with bears,” Ackles said.

“But I think for now, it’s just really important that people manage their attractants — it’s the time of year bears get ready for hibernation, and they’re much more active right now.”