August 23, 2016 - 8:00 PM
REVELSTOKE, B.C. - Residents of a Rocky Mountain community are being chastised after nine black bears were killed in a single week for raiding garbage cans and becoming too accustomed to humans.
The Conservation Officers Service in British Columbia euthanized the problem animals in and around Revelstoke last week, where one animal was brazen enough to approach the downtown.
Gordon Hitchcock, a 28-year-veteran with the conservation service, said it's very unusual for so many bears to be killed in such a short time period. But he insisted the deaths are unnecessary.
"It's avoidable. That's the key message," Hitchcock said Tuesday. "It's pretty much around managing food attractants."
Once they're conditioned to eating garbage, bears become indifferent to people and can no longer simply be transported further into the wild, he said.
In the North Okanagan zone, conservation officers have put down 15 bears since April, bears that also had grown habituated to eating garbage and other food left out by people.
The animals in the Revelstoke case were all solitary black bears, and the challenge of problem animals isn't restricted to the Rocky Mountains.
"It's an issue that's across most British Columbia, particularly places like Revelstoke that have a natural wildlife corridor," Hitchcock said. Residents in the community of about 7,000 people need "more of a heightened realization that they're in a wildlife corridor, particularly for bears."
Bears have a built-in fear of humans, but their strong instinct to feed can sometimes override that fear and weaken that natural suspicion, said Hitchcock.
Public education and bylaw enforcement are the two main tools used by the Conservation Officers Service to minimize the threats posed by problem animals.
Hitchcock said he hopes the media attention last week's killings have garnered will make people more aware of the need to secure bear attractants, such as garbage and fallen fruit.
He also commended the work of groups like Bear Aware and WildSafeBC for their efforts in raising awareness around how to interact safely with wildlife.
"The bottom line is keeping communities safe and bears wild," Hitchcock said.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016