Conservation Service kills bear already shot in Joe Rich

Bear Aware was upgraded this year to an all inclusive system with new WildSafeBC coordinators assisting as the province tries to apply the successful program to a wide variety of human-wildlife conflict. - WildSafeBC website
Bear Aware was upgraded this year to an all inclusive system with new WildSafeBC coordinators assisting as the province tries to apply the successful program to a wide variety of human-wildlife conflict.
— image credit: WildSafeBC website

A bumper crop of Saskatoon berries is keeping many black bears in the woods this year, but it didn't save one garbage-habituated animal in Joe Rich.

Conservation Officer Ken Owens was forced to kill the bear as it was returning to a resident's garbage, posing a serious risk to the neighbourhood.

The person in question was issued a Dangerous Wildlife Protection Order—a warning which can be upgraded to a $500-plus fine—and the officers trapped the bear, discovering it had already been maimed.

"By looking at the wound that was on the bear, I believe that this animal had been shot previously," said Owens.

Garbage bears never forget a food source and, thus, become a threat to the neighbourhoods they prowl.

In this case, someone had likely tried to kill the bear as it scavenged in the small community—a dangerous manoeuvre given the populated locale.

Bears will travel hundreds of kilometres back to a food source and easily become hooked on the calorie-rich scraps people leave in the waste over their own natural food sources.

The homeowner is now keeping all garbage under lock and key, but the lesson has cost a life.

"The garbage wasn't in proper bear-resistant bins and it created a food source and a public safety threat," Owens said.

This was the second bear the Kelowna/Vernon Conservation Officers have put down in the area this year. A bear in Glenmore was actually charging to protect a garbage source, according to Conservation Officer Terry Myroniuk, who noted the officers tend to hold off killing an animal until they know it's necessary.

The Conservation Service relies on B.C.'s Bear Aware program to help educate the public and the program has proven a leading conservation campaign, blazing a trail for other communities to safely manage problem interactions with the animals.

B.C. has more black bears than any other province or state in North America, with an estimate 160,000 compared to Alberta's 30,000.

Bear Aware has taught thousands of people how to lock up their garbage and secure fruit trees and compost bins with barbed wire; but sometimes the ounce of prevention needed is just about harnessing pure logic.

"People making sure not to put out their garbage until the morning of pickup protects a lot of bears," Owens said.

Kelowna has had a very quiet summer on the conservation front. A healthy cougar, apparently feeding on deer, not household pets, was spotted in East Kelowna; it was not a threat and has returned to the woods unharmed. Another bear was spotted last week in Glenmore in a townhouse complex and has returned to the Glenmore Highlands without trouble.

Several reports of aggressive deer have come into the CSO, however, as fawning season has yet to end, the calls are pretty normal, Myroniuk said.

The officers are asking people to lock up their garbage, log onto the Bear Aware site and take the proper precautions to protect their neighbourhoods and wildlife.

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