Bear killed after hatchery ‘incident’

A Ucluelet bear was killed last week after a tourist reported an incident at the hatchery.

Sgt. Ben York of the B.C. Conservation Office said late Sunday evening, Oct. 26, his office received a report that a visitor from Victoria had gotten scratched on the leg, and she believed a bear had done it while she was trying to get into her vehicle. The scratch drew blood, but it was minor she treated it herself, the woman reported. York said the CO had been assured the woman wasn’t eating, and that the people in the car didn’t have food with them.

On Monday, a Conservation Officer went to the hatchery to check things out on the boardwalk. A couple other bears were easily “hazed” away – but one was not.

“Almost immediately (the officer) was confronted with an aggressive bear,” York said.

Despite yelling and a warning shot aimed at the creek bank, the bear didn’t flinch.

“It just kept coming straight at him.”

The officer, who was reportedly on the hatchery boardwalk, shot the bear when it was about five metres away from him, York said.

A young male bear, the animal was estimated to be three or four years old and 120 pounds.

A necropsy showed nothing abnormal, York said.

York said feeding by humans led to the death.

Photographers have pulled dead fish to specific areas where they want the bears to “pose,” giving bears the message that humans aer food sources, several local

observers said.

One photographer dangled a GoPro camera in a bear’s face for a close-up of the creature eating fish placed there, York said, adding that he was sure from its behaviour the bear that died last week had been fed from a car in the past.

“There is no doubt that is what led to it,” he said.

“It’s my expert opinion, based on the behaviour of the animal, that it had been fed,” he said.

West Coast residents were upset about the bear’s death.

“It’s like losing a friend only worse – the poor bear’s totally innocent,” said Bob Edy.

One man the Westerly spoke with said he observed the bear put his paws on the hood of the car, but as soon as they started the car, he ran away.

Another man reported it appeared there was food in the car.

Trina Mattson of Tofino was angered that a bear had to be killed over the “incident.”

“I think they should have been fined for interfering and let the bear go on his way,” Mattson said.

“I don’t think we should be interfering with the normal course of what (the bears) life is,” she said.

“I don’t want them to become accustomed to humans. This is where the lack of fear comes in,” adding that people do smell like food.

Mattson said she gets that visitors love bearwatching.

“If they can see us and smell us, I don’t think it’s right,” Mattson said.

“When it comes down to fish being up the creeks, they should close those roads,” Mattson said. “If a bear decides she’s going to run 50 feet because she has a cub in the bush, what’s a tour guide going to do?”

jcarmichael@westerlynews.ca