British Columbia has experienced an escalation of black bear-human conflicts, particularly over the past ten years. The number of black bear complaints recorded by the Conservation Officer Service nearly doubled between 1992 and 1999 while the number of complaints attended to remained unchanged. Between 1992 and 1999, BC Conservation Officers recorded an annual average of 8,811 complaints, but were only able to attend to less than one-third of them.
The number of bears handled in control actions also increased. Public complaints resulted in an average of 995 black bears being destroyed and 214 black bears translocated annually. This reached a peak in 1998 when 1,728 bears were handled by Conservation Officers in control actions (MELP 2000).
Fewer bears are being translocated each year due to the ineffectiveness of translocation and the additional problems it causes. Relocated bears usually conflict with resident bear populations in habitat that is already fully occupied. Translocated animals tend to return to their home territories and the site of the conflict.
Each year in the province, several people are attacked and injured or killed in encounters with both black bears and grizzly bears. Two recent instances in BC indicate that black bear attacks on humans may sometimes be predatory. One, in 1996 involved a rancher in the Chilcotin who was chased until he fell off his horse and was killed by the bear. Another, in 1997 involved several people being attacked, including two people who were killed, near Liard Hot Springs in northern BC.
While most black bears are more likely to run away from a human than attack, the number of people attacked by black bears in the province each year is about the same as the number attacked by the less abundant grizzly. These numbers have been increasing as both the number of people and the number of bears steadily increase.