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Bear put down after being found on Vancouver Island kitchen counter

The West Coast lost a black bear to habituation and food conditioning last month.

A large adult male black bear was trapped and killed by the B.C. Conservation Officer Service at Mussel Beach near Ucluelet on July 31 after causing significant damage and becoming a threat to public safety, according to Conservation Officer Andrew Riddell.

“This bear just was not leaving humans alone,” Riddell told the VI Free Daily. “It was coming around young children and was certainly a risk to the public, so this one wasn’t really considered a candidate whatsoever to be relocated.”

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He said the bear had been on the Conservation Officer Service’s radar for the past two years and had shown escalating signs of habituation and food conditioning last year, often being spotted in areas around Salmon Beach and Mussel Beach, showing no fear of humans or dogs and being unfazed by hazing techniques like bear bangers.

“Last year, when this bear began showing signs of habituation towards humans and food conditioning, we aired on the side of caution and went out there and we educated a lot of people…On the West Coast, we try to manage the people more so than managing the bear,” Riddell said. “The same bear returned and this year the behaviour of the bear was very concerning as it was ripping apart sheds to get inside of people’s secure structures and standing in front of people who were having campfires.”

Terry Graff of Salmon Beach told the Westerly that the recreational community is accustomed to seeing bears, but this particular bear was menacing and wreaking havoc.

“Because he was so large and he was so unafraid of people and he began breaking into buildings, he became super dangerous. Unfortunately for this bear he did become habituated…He was practically living in somebody’s shed for a while because he got into their freezer once and then kept going back,” she said. “When a bear starts to break into the shed where your garbage is, what do you do? I think this bear was just too smart for his own good and he had a liking for what people had in their sheds and he knew he could get in, he bent steel latches, he ripped doors off.”

She added that one Salmon Beach owner came home to find the bear on his kitchen counter.

“He tried to open the door to get the bear to come out and the bear went ‘exit stage left’ and out through a plexiglass window,” she said.

Based on the bear’s behaviour, conservation officers set up traps at both Salmon Beach and Mussel Beach, where it was eventually captured.Riddell said conservation officers patrolling Salmon Beach were impressed with the attractant management they saw and he suggested the bear’s addiction to human attractants likely set in irreversibly deep last year.

“It wasn’t this year so much that folks weren’t securing their attractants, many of them did, but the bear was ripping doors off to get inside and get at their fridges and things like that,” he said adding no fines were dished out under the B.C. Wildlife Act for failing to secure attractants, but additional educational resources were provided to Salmon Beach residents to prevent another bear from becoming a problem.

“A bear is 500 lbs and that plywood door just isn’t going to be a prevention for a 500 lb bear to get inside. They’re going to make some modifications, so we went on the side of education with the residents this time around.”

Riddell added that the West Coast’s two WildSafeBC coordinators, Bob Hansen and Marianne Paquette are an “excellent resource” for anyone interested in learning more about coexisting with wildlife and he encourages everyone to check out www.wildsafebc.com for tips and strategies on preventing negative interactions with predators.

“Sometimes, we get a little relaxed on how we should be controlling our attractants and it’s very important to know that when you live on the West Coast…it’s very remote and very expected that you’re going to have some sort of interaction with bears and cougars, so securing all those attractants is a must,” he said.

He added that anyone who sees a bear in a residential area must immediately report their sighting to the the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277.

“Don’t post it on Facebook right away and not call us. It’s always nice to let your community know that there’s something in the area but, if you don’t call, we can’t come out and do some sort of preventive measures to move that bear on,” he said.

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andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca

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Andrew Bailey

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