It was a bad year for bears, says Meg Toom.
On Tuesday, Jan. 22, the Squamish Bear Aware community coordinator gave the rundown of last year's wildlife activity to the District of Squamish's committee of the whole.
"Twenty-two bears within our area had died in 2012," Toom said.
The majority - 12 black bears - were shot by conservation officers after becoming reliant on garbage and accustomed to human interactions. Officers relocated seven bears and one bear was found dead, most likely from items it consumed at the Squamish landfill, Toom said.
Nine bears were killed in motor vehicle accidents. Highway 99, between Cleveland Avenue and Depot Road is a big concern, she said. The area seems to be a throughway for wildlife, yet the highway's traffic is continually increasing and that portion of the road is not well lit.
Squamish now has elk in the region, adding to vehicle safety concerns, Toom said. A bull can weigh up to approximately 1,100 pounds, she noted. Last year, two elk were killed on the highway near Squamish's downtown core, including a pregnant cow, which was hit and killed adjacent to the Squamish Adventure Centre, Toom said.
The elks' presence creates a challenging situation, conservation officer Simon Gravel told council.
"We are for sure forecasting that kind of problem," he said.
From 2009 to 2011, Squamish held the top spot for number of cougar sightings. Last year, it fell to second place behind Saanich. Three cougars were destroyed in Squamish, Toom said.
The community's expansion into cougar habitat, such as Crumpit Woods, may be part of the reason for Squamish's high level of sightings, she said. People are also more aware that they should call the wildlife hot line, Toom noted.
"Certainly we are seeing an increase for sure," she said of the big cats.