VANCOUVER ISLAND, B.C. – Bear sightings have spiked dramatically in the Comox Valley and Campbell River.

Since the beginning of June, there have been 73 black bear complaints between the two communities.

Conservation officer James Hilgemann says there is a common thread to why bears are roaming into suburban areas.

“People are not willing to get up early in the morning, so they bring their garbage out the night before, people bringing their garbage curbside, and not being responsible for attractants seems to be the gist of most of our complaints,” he said.

He added that people need to be a responsible neighbour and deal with their garbage appropriately at this time of the year.

Officers have caught bears rummaging through garbage, which makes it easier to issue violation tickets to people who aren’t responsible for their trash.

“If you create an attractant and lure bears into your residence or neighbourhood, then it’s a ticketable offence under the Wildlife Act and it carries a $230 fine,” Hilgemann said.

Hilgemann said officers are trying to educate the public about the dangers of leaving attractants out, “but people just aren’t getting it.”

A habituated bear “is a dead bear” says Hilgemann.

“Any bears that we set upon with our culvert trap, they’re usually euthanized, the exception being cubs or family units,” he said.

“We relocated a sow and two cubs out of the Courtenany area last week.”

He said getting into the garbage is a learned behaviour and bears won’t change their ways.

“It’s junk food, they get hooked on it and they don’t move on unless they have a reason to,” Hilgemann said.

The drought has dried up the berry crops, forcing the bears to look for food elsewhere.

He estimated that “five or six” bears have been destroyed this month.

There have also been daily sightings of cougars, as well.

Hilgemann said there is a cougar living in the Beaver Lodge lands that has been targeting its natural prey of rabbits and deer, but is showing some interest in human activity.

“We’ve tried to run that cat with the hounds a couple of times but the dry conditions makes it very difficult to track any animal scent so we’ve been unsuccessful,” Hilgemann said.

“That’s in and around the Rockland/Sportsplex area of Campbell River. That seems to be a younger animal.”