Black bear run-ins on rise in central Newfoundland

Nearly 100 black bears have been either relocated or killed by wildlife officers in the past year, CBC News has learned.

Communities dealing with more and more encounters

Nearly 100 black bears have been either relocated or killed by wildlife officers in Newfoundland in the past year, CBC News has learned.

Between August 2012 and August 2013, 74 black bears were trapped or moved, while 22 were killed.

CBC obtained the information through an access to information request.

According to the provincial government, the "nuisance" bears were trapped near communities on the island and taken to remote locations to be released.

Bears deemed to be a threat were shot outside town limits and buried in landfills or pits to avoid attracting other animals.

According to the documents, central Newfoundland experienced a significant increase in bear activity in the past year. In the Glovertown area, 16 complaints were received over a 24-hour period.

Convicted shooter sees irony

Earlier this year, Colin Oram of Glovertown was charged and fined by the province after shooting a bear that came onto his property.

Oram says he should never have been charged for trying to protect his family.

"I don't think I should have got charged. I think anybody should be able to protect their property," he said.

"Now the property, I mean, I had my wife there and two Labrador dogs about a foot from this bear's head ... barking at him ... and he was coming in. So I mean I had no other choice to shoot him. Or should I have just waited until he gets in and destroys my house and kills my wife, kills my dogs and kills me?"

According to Oram, it's contradictory to allow wildlife officers to kill the bears, but not citizens who feel threatened when they come on their property.

"I think that I should be able to protect my family no matter what," he said. "They [department officials] can go and shoot bears in a cage and everything is OK. So I don't know. I'm all totally puzzled with it."

Not just central problem

Residents in Epworth on the Burin Peninsula have had a few close calls over the past couple of weeks when they spotted black bears near their homes.

Lori Dunphy, a mother of two and almost nine months pregnant, woke up in the middle of the night to see two bears tearing through her garbage.

A couple of curious bear cubs were spotted on a residential property in Glovertown in 2012. (Submitted photo)

She set off her car alarm to scare them off, but worries they'll be back.

"This is the third night in a row that they've been prowling around my house," Dunphy said. "They were eating apples off my apple trees the last two nights, and my dogberry trees, so they'll probably be back again tonight."

Cathy Loder Mayo also had a visit from a bear that ripped her garbage box off its foundation. She says she's terrified of bumping into a bear on her way to work.

"I'm here frightened to death — I really am," she said. "I work at Tim's and I leave here, it's dark when I leave to go to work in the mornings, and I'm here with my key chain blowing my horn 10 or 15 times, probably waking up half the people on the hill."

According to hunter and trapper Robie Beazley, trash left outside overnight is a big attraction for bears.

"If you leave garbage around, that's the worst thing. Bears smell garbage," he said. "If you have a barbecue, make sure you clean out everything from your barbecue. Bears are really attracted to barbecue sauce and if there is any sugar in anything and it burns, bears can smell sugar for miles."

One of the bears seen roaming around the community was caught and relocated, much to the relief of residents.

Beazley said relocation, rather than extermination, is a more ideal solution for getting bears away from populated areas like towns, parks and campgrounds.

Bears generally go into hibernation as the weather gets colder and will sleep until spring. But until then, wildlife officials urge people to stay vigilant and keep garbage indoors until just before pickup.


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