Bear death toll continues to rise

Lots of conflict expected to continue until berries ripen

Four more black bears were destroyed in Whistler last week and conservation officers are keeping busy with a number of bears frequenting the Village.

A poor and late berry crop in the alpine is keeping bears in the valley looking for food.

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"It's been extremely busy in Whistler," Sgt. Dave Jevons from the B.C. Conservation Officer Service said of black bear activity and conflict this week.

On Aug. 17, conservation officers had to put down a bear that had suffered a badly broken rear left leg, most likely in a motor vehicle accident, Jevons said. The animal was in obvious distress and started to get more aggressive and seek out human food. It was getting into coolers and picnic lunches at Lakeside Park and conservation officers received a number of calls for several days with reports of the injured bear.

Then last Thursday (Aug. 18) officers killed a bear that had a long history of conflict and was getting into serious trouble in the Alpine Meadows and Edgewater Lodge area.

Though the animal had been getting into conflict situations for the past few weeks, on Thursday alone it was hazed out of the Edgewater area three times. The bear then returned again and gained access to a buffet meal.

It also took a chicken off a barbecue while it was being cooked and while people were on the deck -a level of habituation that isn't tolerable, Jevons said.

Last summer the same bear had taken food from barbecues as well, which indicates the animal learned to associate barbecues with food, he added. The bear had also been relocated three times in the past, most recently to the Meager area north of Pemberton last July.

Another bear had to be euthanized after being fatally injured in a motor vehicle accident south of the Brandywine Falls area on Saturday (Aug. 20), said conservation officer Sgt. Chris Doyle. The bear sustained severe injuries and was put down when located on Sunday (Aug. 21) not far from where it was hit.

On Monday (Aug. 22), conservation officers killed a large male bear that would not leave the Village. Doyle said it was a double-tagged bear that had twice been relocated in the past, but was believed to be responsible for breaking into houses earlier this summer, as well as breaking into cars in the day lots.

"It's obviously a high-conflict animal," said Doyle, who noted that one other bear was captured in the Sundial Crescent area of the Village on Saturday and was relocated.

Not including the two injured bears euthanized, eight bears have been killed so far this year in the Whistler area because of conflict with humans.

And Sylvia Dolson, executive director of the Get Bear Smart Society, said people will continue to see bears in the valley getting into conflict until the berries ripen in the alpine.

"Bears are working hard to get meals as they are behind on weight gain. Some are looking a little thin," Dolson wrote in an email to The Question.

"The younger bears will be having the most difficult times - sub-adults, yearlings and cubs. They just don't have enough weight yet to sustain large-scale food failures and late crops."

Jevons said conservations officers are offering a "constant presence" to help keep bears away from the Village and day parking lots. He reminded members of the public to keep attractants controlled and secure, and to keep doors closed.

He agreed that because of the bad berry crop many bears will continue frequenting the Village, which will likely lead to increased conflict.

- with files from Cori Alfreds

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