The infamous black bears of Christina Lake, B.C., appear to be weaning themselves off dog food, according to the man who once fed them $100 worth of kibbles a day.
Allen Piche pleaded guilty in March to feeding the two dozen wild black bears on his remote property. He will be sentenced in the fall but in the meantime was ordered by the B.C. Conservation Society to stop the practice, which had been going on for years.
Police discovered the docile bears when they raided a marijuana grow operation on Piche's property last August. Initially, there was speculation the bears were guarding the marijuana, but Piche denied that was the case.
Piche was allowed to continue feeding the bears until they went into hibernation but was ordered not to feed them when they woke up in the spring. If the bears couldn't be weaned off dog food, they might have to be shot, conservation officers said.
Piche told CBC News that most of the animals did return to his remote property this spring, but once they understood he was not going to feed them, they just left.
"'I'll show you the records," Piche said. "I've had 80 per cent of the bears come and now 80 per cent are gone. I'm counting on the bears to do the right thing. So far, they have."
Bears may come back in summer
Still, Piche worries about this summer. The bears tend to return in early July en masse after mating.
Piche, a self-described "aging hippie" said his former partner began the bear feedings, and he carried on when she was warned to stop because the bears kept coming back.
The feeding went on for years and likely would have continued had Piche not been visited by the RCMP last summer. Police arrested him and three others for allegedly tending to a large outdoor marijuana grow-op.
That’s when the bears came out of the forest and nuzzled up to police officers. One even hung out on a police cruiser for a while.
Piche has pleaded not guilty to the grow-op charge.