The West Coast still has time to save a bear’s life.
A juvenile bear that was expected to be killed after wandering into a Millstream home on July 12 has been granted a stay of execution by conservation officers who are waiting to see if its habituated behaviours can be corrected.
“We’ve not set the trap yet,” Conservation Officer Dan Eichstadter told the Westerly News. “After being in town and assessing the neighbourhoods and areas the bear has been in, it was determined that to continue to monitor the bear was the better option,”
He said the bear isn’t out of the woods yet as the Conservation Officer Service (CO) will monitor the situation in the hopes that the bear loses interest in town and heads back to the wild.
“We’ll assess what it’s behaviour is, what it’s getting into, how it’s reacting to people, if it’s showing any more habituation to people; if it’s losing it’s natural fear and we’ll adjust our response according to that,” he said.
He said the decision to not immediately kill the bear, despite the bold behaviour it displayed when it wandered into a residence, was made after conservation officers became aware of multiple attractants being left out in the area, particularly unsecured chicken coops.
He urges any locals raising chickens to keep their coops secured and clean and cited “unnatural food sources like garbage, dirty barbecues, dog or cat food that’s left outside, [and] bird feeders,” as the usual suspects of dangerous bear attractants.
He said the CO educated area residents on proper garbage security and animal husbandry practices and the bear’s life is now in their hands.
“We’re assessing all those factors and seeing if there’s anything that can be done to remove those attractants so that the bear doesn’t have a reason to hang around and it will move on,” he said.
“We live in bear habitat. They’re going to be around and it’s up to us to remove the attractants. Don’t give them a reason to hang around town. If there’s no food, there’s no reason for them to be there and they’ll keep moving and continue to be shy of humans and avoid us.”
He added the bear must remain scared of humans.
“That’s a major factor for us,” he said. “If it’s losing that natural fear, it’s becoming dangerous so that’s where we would have to set traps and remove the bear.”
He expressed concern over the lack of reports the CO has received since July 15 and said reports are vital to both the bear’s and the public’s safety.
“It seems that people are maybe shy to report but it’s still very important that we get those reports so we know what that bear’s doing and how it’s acting so that we can respond appropriately,” he said.
“If it continues to hang around, and we don’t get phone calls, it will continue to get habituated to people and it will get conditioned that being around people is not a big deal and it will lose that fear and then it becomes dangerous before we’ve even had a chance to come out and take some of the measures that we can do before having to remove the bear.”
He said there is no timeline for when the CO would make a final decision on what to do with the bear.
“We haven’t had a report on it in a little while here but it’s still on our minds. We know it’s been around,” he said. “Short of all the attractants disappearing, that bear isn’t going to just disappear.”
He urges anyone who spots a bear, or has concerns about the bear being monitored, to contact the CO’s reporting line at 1-877-952-7277.
“Just let us know what’s going on,” he said.
“If we get those phone calls early enough, we can see how the bear’s reacting we have a chance to come out and remove those attractants from the area and give advice to locals so that the bear doesn’t have a reason to hang around.”