The B.C. Conservation Officer Service plans to trap and kill a bear that broke into a shed to access garbage in Ucluelet on Friday morning.
“Once a bear accesses a structure and gets a food reward, that’s what we call threatening behaviour to people. If he’ll break into your shed to get some food, he might look at your house and go, ‘Well that’s a big building, I wonder what’s in there,” COS Acting Sergeant for Central Vancouver Island Stuart Bates told the Westerly News, adding the trap would likely be set Friday or Saturday.
“That’s not behaviour we can tolerate, because it’s not a trick he’s going to unlearn…If I were to move him somewhere else, either he will just come back, or he may continue that behaviour where I move him to, and we live on a small island with lots of people.”
The bear being targeted is believed to be the same one that has killed multiple chickens in three separate incidents this month. The first occurred on July 2 when a bear killed seven chickens before returning to the same property soon after and killing several more, according to Bates.
“Once they learn the location of a food source, they will come back,” Bates said. “It’s really hard to dissuade an animal that has gained access to a high calorie, high protein food source by now putting something in the way. Once he knows it’s there, it’s much harder to keep him out of it.”
He added many predators will go after chickens, including eagles, bears, wolves and cougars and said anyone keeping chickens must secure them safely.
“Take the necessary precautions ahead of time. Before you put the attractant there, put in the steps to prevent the bear from getting in there,” he said. “You have to secure your chickens in a manner that a dangerous predator [like], bears, wolves and cougars, cannot access them. Obviously we can’t expect you to keep them locked up 24/7 but, at night, they need to be kept inside a chicken coop that an animal can’t get into…In the daytime, if you’re going to have them out running around, you need to have electric fencing around them.”
He said the owner of the property put up electric fencing at the behest of the COS, but the bear then accessed another property where chickens were kept on July 10.
Bates said killing unsecured chickens was not necessarily troubling behaviour and not the reason the bear is being put down.
“Killing a bear or a cougar or something, for eating a chicken seems a little extreme because no one would expect me to do that if an eagle grabbed one,” he said. “It’s incumbent on people that if you want to have those animals, which are known to be attractants to predators, you are required to take the necessary precautions to prevent large predators from accessing them.”
He said no fines were given out to the chicken owners, but he hopes to see better animal husbandry practices in the future. Anyone who spots a bear in town is asked to report their sighting to the BC Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277.
“I would much rather be giving people information before there’s a problem than after,” he said. “The biggest issue we’ve had, is people not calling me. The sooner they call me, the more options I have. The longer they wait, the fewer I have.”
He said the COS will only kill a bear if its behaviour is posing a threat to humans.
“We’ve actually had incidences where bears have actually attacked people where we determined that it was a defensive attack and the bear was doing it to protect itself or its cubs, and we don’t put those bears down. Bears that we need to put down are the ones that we’ve determined are reaching a level where it’s possible there’s going to be a predatory attack on a person. “
Bates said the COS has received 22 bear reports from Ucluelet since April and he believes this would be the first bear to be put down in the community this year.
Ucluelet’s district office issued a bear warning on Thursday afternoon urging residents to secure their attractants.