A B.C. conservation officer is furious after being forced to euthanize nine bears in a week in the Revelstoke area, after warnings to reduce habituation have fallen on some residents' deaf ears — and he fears this could just be the beginning.
"Exceptionally frustrated," is how Dan Bartol described his state of mind Monday in an interview with CBC Calgary News at 6.
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"This is a problem that is avoidable. It didn't have to begin in the first place. We have done a lot of work proactively along with the town and the Bear Aware Society to prevent issues like this and people just aren't taking note I believe."
There are going to be more
"I expect there are going to be more bears euthanized in Revelstoke. I'd love for people to change their actions immediately, but I don't think they are going to," said Bartol.
He hopes, however, that nine dead bears in one week could shake people into action.
"Maybe these are the sacrificial bears that allow the community, residents, individuals, campground hosts to all take action and realize that complacency is causing bears to be euthanized," Bartol said.
Dozens of calls
His Golden-based office has received dozens of calls from the Revelstoke area since the beginning of August, after bears rummaged through garbage, sheds and resident backyards to sample fruit trees.
"This is an avoidable situation, and now we are in reaction mode where we are just trying to get on top of the situation before somebody gets injured, or worse," Bartol said.
For many reasons, simply tranquilizing and moving a bear is not feasible, Bartol said.
"Most bears that are relocated either try to come back, either get injured on the way or they make it back successfully or they cause a problem in a different location," Bartol explained.
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"The focus really has to be preventing them from becoming habituated. That is really the only solution."
And the best way to do that, he adds, is to keep garbage secure and out of bears' reach.
Bartol has a number of legal options in his tool kit to encourage the public to cooperate.
"We have municipal bylaws as well as provincial regulations. A few people have been charged now for attracting dangerous wildlife to a land or premises under the Wildlife Act," he said.
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"I have issued a number of dangerous wildlife protection orders, which specifically specify what an individual or business has to do. Failure to comply with that will result in another charge."
Before the fines though, Bartol said education usually works with most people.
"Often those are really positive, proactive conversations that reduce bear conflicts, so a lot of the calls end that way," he said.
"Unfortunately the ones where someone says, 'Well, this bear has been in my garbage several times now,' I really am left with no options other than that bear has to be euthanized before it hurts somebody."