A bear is dead because Ucluelet locals couldn’t be bothered to secure their attractants.
A habituated black bear that had lost its fear of humans and become addicted to unnatural food sources was shot and killed in Ucluelet on Wednesday.
As was reported by the Westerly News, the B.C. Conservation Officer Service had set a trap for the bear after receiving reports of aggressive behaviour and property damage.
The trap was set near the corner of Marine Drive and Helen Road and the bear was caught in it sometime overnight between Oct. 4-5, according to CO Sergeant Ben York.
York told the Westerly the animal was taken to a secure location and a firearm was used to end its life.
“The reason it was euthanized is because it had exhibited significant conflict behaviour,” York said adding the bear had begun acting aggressively towards humans to protect the unnatural food sources it was addicted to.
York said the bear was seen circling a residence on Pacific Crescent last week and efforts to scare it away proved fruitless.
“We also had an incident where it wouldn’t let somebody out of a vehicle in their driveway and was apparently standing up on its hind legs pushing up against the car…The final thing was that it was pulling apart a freezer outside somebody’s front door in their carport,” he said.
“We just don’t want to get to the point where it really does break into somebody’s house or swats somebody to get them off the garbage or whatever it is it’s feeding on.”
Ucluelet has laws in place to prevent habituation and keep wildlife wild including a stipulation within its zoning bylaw that mandates all waste, both residential and commercial, must be stored within a principal building except for the day of garbage collection.
York said evidence obtained by the CO suggest the bear was feeding on garbage locals had illegally left out overnight and the freezer the animal tore apart should never have been there as it contravened not only local bylaws, but provincial regulations and common sense as well.
He said Ucluelet’s unsecured attractants was surprising given the amount of work the CO and other organizations have done to spread education around wildlife management through town and he added Ucluelet was once a noteworthy example of how a community can coexist with wildlife.
“Ucluelet was actually one of our shining stars,” he said. “They were doing very good things to minimize bear conflict…All that stuff still exists so I’m extremely disappointed that this happened.”
He added Ucluelet has solid bylaws in place that must be followed for wildlife to stay safe.
“There’s a bunch of laws in place already and people are just starting to get slack. There’s not supposed to be attractants out anywhere in Ucluelet,” he said.
“If people don’t want this to happen again, keep your garbage inside until garbage pickup day and don’t leave attractants outside of any type shape or form. It’s as simple as that. It’s why this animal went from being a shy wilderness animal to one that was going to start causing damage to people and damage.”
He added wildlife safety is everyone’s responsibility.
“We need to make sure people understand that their actions are going to kill bears over and over and over again and might end up getting somebody hurt as well,” he said. “It’s easy to prevent. Just don’t feed them; whether it’s intentionally or unintentionally.”
He said bears are smart and can break into unsecured areas pretty easily meaning straps around freezers don’t work and boxes around garbage cans don’t either. All attractants must be secured indoors.
He urges anyone who spots a bear eating unnatural food sources in town to report that sighting to the CO at 1-877-952-7277 so steps can be taken to rehabilitate the animal and cure its unnatural food source addiction before it’s too late.
“You’re in a fairly remote community surrounded by wilderness; we don’t need to know about every bear that crosses the road. We do need to know about any bear thats exhibiting conflict behaviour,” he said.
“This is a sticky one for people. They figure, ‘Don’t call the CO because they’re going to come and destroy the bear.’ But, we need to know because that gives us a heads up and early warning and we may be able to deal with the people…Through education or compliance actions, we can tune the people up before the bear gets into trouble.”
While he’s disappointed Ucluelet failed to protect its wildlife in this instance, York said the community has proven its ability to safely coexist with local bears before.
“I’m hopeful because Ucluelet has fixed this once already and they can fix it again without a lot of extra effort,” he said. “People just need to remember what they already know.”