SUMMERLAND – A mother black bear and her two cubs were shot and killed by conservation officers in a residential neighbourhood Monday afternoon.
The response came after the animals broke into the covered bed of a pickup truck in a suburban area of Summerland.
According to Barb Leslie of Conservation B.C., neighbours and tourists saw the animals eating trash in the area but had no dangerous encounters.
“They were extremely habituated to people and garbage,” Leslie says. “The cubs were in poor shape for this time of year and the sow was extremely large. She had been basically living on garbage throughout the winter.”
Leslie says that she and other officers had found several “day beds” in the area, where the bears had been bringing back garbage to eat later. She suspects the bears had been sleeping in a culvert and because of their reliance on humans for their survival, were not good candidates for relocation.
Leslie says that before a decision to euthanize is made, several factors are considered.
“We look at the history to see what kind of trouble they’ve been getting into, we also look at the general health of the animals,” she says. “In this case, one of our officers had the opportunity to observe the cubs earlier in the day and noticed that they were hurting with almost every step and they just weren’t in good shape compared to other healthy bears that we see.”
Leslie says that a full grown sow would normally weigh around 150 lbs in the spring. She estimates this bear was closer to 250 lbs.
“She was an extremely big bear. That’s a typical weight you would see with a male bear at the end of the fall after they’ve been eating out of the orchards and getting ready to hibernate. All the evidence is that they did not have a healthy diet.”
“It’s unfortunate but based on the options that we had, and how these bears had lost their fear of people, the decision was made to put them down. It’s never an easy decision, though.”
The most important thing people should take away from this unfortunate case, says Leslie, is for residents to keep temptations like garbage out of their yards.
“We have bears coming out of hibernation at this time and they’re very hungry,” she says. “They’ll be opportunists so until the grass greens up on the hillsides, everybody need to make sure their garbage is locked up until the morning of pickup.”
She also recommends bird feeders be brought indoors at night, barbecues be cleaned and that pet food not be left outside.
“We need to make sure there are no easy meals for them in our backyards,” she says.
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