A pair of rare white bear cubs and a young black bear sibling have become a nuisance in a small town in eastern B.C., and local residents are being urged to help the animals avoid being shot by conservation officers.
The three cubs, from two different mothers, have been gorging on garbage and the last of the season’s fallen fruit around the community of Elkford, just inside the B.C. border, about 130 kilometres southwest of Calgary.
"They've been spotted in someone's kitchen, on patios and in yards," said Elkford spokeswoman Randi McDonald.
The district planned a special meeting Tuesday night to try to agree on a strategy, McDonald said.
McDonald has been speaking in schools and has had flyers distributed to every home in town as part of a campaign to encourage the bears to leave. If residents clean up their garbage and fruit trees, it would eliminate the bruins’ food supply.
"We don't want to see any animal destroyed because of human negligence, so we are really asking the community to step up," McDonald said.
DNA testing underway
Biologists don't know yet if the two white cubs are related to the Kermode, or so-called "spirit bear" of B.C’s Central Coast. The white Kermode bears are a genetic variation, but other mutant, light-coloured bears are occasionally found among black bears all over B.C.
One black mother bear has been seen with two white cubs and a black cub, while another black bear has one white cub, one cinnamon-coloured cub and one black cub, according to the website HancockWildlife.ca.
Samples have been taken for DNA testing from some hair left behind by the bears.
Jutta Kolhi, a spokeswoman for the foundation Bear Aware, said her organization is doing everything it can to save the animals.
"[We want] to get these bears to move out of town and go into hibernation," said Kolhi.
Conservation officers in the area valley shoot dozens of black bears every year.