Justin Millett joined the Conservation Officer Service in Williams Lake in November and is training for a year before he will be permanently stationed in Quesnel. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Bear calls keeping new Cariboo conservation officer busy

Residents are reminded to secure attractants in Williams Lake and Quesnel

Bears have been keeping the Conservation Officer Service occupied in the Cariboo region, said Justin Millett, a conservation officer.

“They are coming out of hibernation right now and are focused in on a lot of the lower lying greener areas right now, which is, unfortunately where people tend to inhabit now,” he told the Tribune. “Hopefully soon with snow starting to recede, things will green up in different areas and bears will start moving up to where the normally want to be.”

Already there have been bears getting into people’s garbage in developed areas just outside of Williams Lake and Quesnel and it’s a major concern, he said, adding dealing with habituated bears is not a part of the job the conservation officers enjoy.

Residents need to take better care to secure attractants because once a bear gets a taste for them it becomes a problem. The COS is asking people not to put their garbage out curbside too early, keeping garbage in the house or take it to a transfer station.

“Once we get a bear into garbage, it kind of ties our hands on what we are able to do at that point. That’s been a big area of focus for us and it’s going to be a big area of focus throughout the summer with us.”

Read more: Conservation officer service investigating illegal harvest of cow moose near Sugar Cane

Cougar complaints have been below average compared to previous years and even throughout the winter, while there were a few problems, it’s been a low call volume.

Poaching, which is always a bit of an issue, has not seen any record-breaking numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic, he confirmed.

“Not to say that it’s not happening, but if people do have information about it then of course we encourage them to call our RAPP line 1-877-952-2777 or #7277 on the Telus mobility network.”

Millett arrived in Williams Lake in November as a new conservation officer and will be training for a year before he moves to work permanently in Quesnel.

Originally from Ontario, his previous work experience includes helping run the Ontario Hunter Education Program, he was a wildfire ranger in Northwestern Ontario and was a seasonal conservation officer with Alberta Parks for a season.

“I also did a couple of seasons doing catering for the Edmonton Oilers as well as a lot of their premium clients that came through, like Garth Brooks, and all that stuff,” he said with a chuckle.

So far he loves Williams Lake, thinks it’s gorgeous and cannot get enough of it, he added.

“I’ve enjoyed every minute.”

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