BEAR AWARE

Around 1000 bears are destroyed each year in the province of British Columbia. There were over 20,000 bear complaints last year.

Last night, a man opened his front door and found a bear neck deep in the garbage HE left out, he called the RCMP and the bear was shot while up a tree. He baited the animal into the community, put himself and the neighbourhood at risk and was the cause of the destruction of a perfectly healthy, three year old male black bear.

In the wake of all this, I made a few phone calls to my Bear Aware colleagues working in other communities to see what kind of a year they are having. Here are some quick statistics:

Castlegar: 33 complaints, 0 destroyed. Bear Aware has been running there since 1998.

Elk Valley: 550 complaints, 40 black bears destroyed, five grizzlies destroyed. New Bear Aware program.

Gibsons: 2004 – 500+ complaints, 17 bears destroyed. 2005 (New Bear Aware program) – 10 complaints, 1 destroyed in rural area.

Kamloops: 0 complaints, 2 destroyed. Bear Aware has been running there for 6 years.

Prince George: 203 Black Bear complaints, 23 grizzly complaints 9 bears destroyed (7 bears destroyed by motor vehicle accidents, 2 bears destroyed at private residences, garbage being the attractant). Long running Bear Aware program.

Revelstoke: 0 complaints, 0 bears destroyed. (This community is where Bear Aware began as a program years ago and the public has become very aware and responsible regarding their domestic attractants).

Tumbler Ridge: Well over 100 complaints, four bears destroyed (in the past few weeks) all of which were on private property – garbage and other domestic attractants the cause. New Bear Aware program

Williams Lake: Two complaints, 0 bears destroyed. The first year our program ran there 11 years ago, 74 bears were destroyed, garbage mostly being the cause.

?Why do they have to shoot them?? a caller asked.Once a bear has been food conditioned (ie. hooked on your garbage) it changes from a semi-predictable wild animal to a very unpredictable and potentially dangerous animal meters away from you and your family. Food conditioned bears have damaged property and caused serious injury in communities throughout BC. It hasn?t happened here but it could given all the garbage around.

In some BC communities, the RCMP and the Conservation Officers will not even respond to calls about bears in the garbage. They feel that you have been feeding the animal therefore it is your problem.

?What about relocation?? Yet another caller.

Here?s the criteria from the Conservation Officer Service regarding moving bears:

Conservation Officers will move bears if:- the bear poses no threat to human life or property;- live capture traps can be used safely;- the bear can be drugged without injury and without endangering the Officer or the public; – suitable bear habitat is available (distant enough so that the bear is unlikely to return, yet close enough so that the move is practical); and – the bear has not grown accustomed to human food or garbage.

Conservation Officers will NOT move bears if:- the bear is aggressive;- the bear is accustomed to human food or garbage;- the bear is too young to establish a territory;- the bear is wounded, sick, starving, or old;- the bear poses an immediate hazard to people or property

Quick note regarding fruit: if you?ve got fruit trees you don?t want, give me a call and we?ll take them away free of charge. If you have trees that you want and fruit that you don?t, call me (242 0004) and we?ll send some volunteers to pick it. If you have fruit all over your trees and yard and don?t care, keep your kids and pets inside, you?ll be seeing a bear any time now.

We need to come together as a community and change. Change the way we deal with attractants, especially garbage and fruit trees. It?s about you, your neighbour, your collective safety and also about respect for the bears who we bait in every day to Tumbler Ridge and destroy.

It?s not the RCMP that are killing these animals, we are.

?Till next week, bear with me.