SUDBURY, Ont. – Residents of Sudbury, Ont., just can’t bear it anymore.
City officials have set up a committee of experts in an effort to find a solution to an influx of unwelcome black bears, known as “nuisance bears.”
Coun. Al Sizer, a member of the committee, said Monday that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has received 2,200 reports of bear-sightings in the city, and police said they’ve received an additional 1,700 bear complaints, four times more than the previous summer.
Sizer said Sudbury accounted for nearly half of the province’s complaints about nuisance bears this summer. In fact, reporting nuisance bears is the first option in the phone directory at the Sudbury office of the Ministry.
He said the committee is made up of 10 people, including representatives from the police force and the ministry, as well as local environmentalists. They even have a member with a PhD in the history of bears.
So far, the committee has met three times since it was formed last month.
And while nobody in Sudbury has been hurt by bears this year, Sizer said it’s always a risk.
“You don’t know what kind of a day the bear’s having,” Sizer said. “I mean, if it’s having a toothache and it encounters somebody, it may not be real friendly.”
Sudbury police only dispatch officers when they determine there’s a risk to the public, said Staff Sgt. Craig Maki. That’s happened 500 times this year, and it’s eaten up 225 hours of police time. They’ve had to kill eight bears.
The committee is chalking the invasion up to a poor blueberry crop, Maki said. Bears are left with no option but to look for alternate food sources, and human food is all too convenient.
“If you can eliminate the human food sources, then you’re solving some of your problems,” he said.
But Maki isn’t part of the city’s bear committee.
“Thank goodness,” he added. “I’ve had my fill of bears this summer, to be honest.”
Maki said he’s had two bears in his backyard this summer, and estimates they weighed about 175 kilograms each.
— By Nicole Thompson in Toronto.