'Shift in behaviour' needed in Yukon to avoid bears being killed, says wildlife group

Another bear was shot on Sunday, this time after an encounter with a woman walking her dog off-leash in a Whitehorse neighbourhood.

Another bear was shot on Sunday, this time after an encounter with a woman walking her dog off-leash

Conservation officer Aaron Koss-Young is urging bear awareness among Yukoners including not walking dogs off-leash. (Meagan Deuling/CBC)

Conservation officers and a wildlife group are calling on Yukoners to walk their pets on a leash after a bear was shot by officers in Whitehorse on Sunday.

A woman was walking her dog in Whistle Bend when a bear came out of the bush, said conservation officer Aaron Koss-Young.

"The dog was off the leash," Koss-Young said.

"And quite often when a dog provokes a bear, they can act defensively, and in turn act quite aggressively towards people, and be quite scary," he said.

Koss-Young said close to 40 bears have been killed this year in the Yukon.

Heather Ashthorn, the executive director of WildWise Yukon, said people don't like to hear they should keep their dogs on a leash, but it's important.

Heather Ashthorn, executive-director of WildWise Yukon, says dogs off-leash and attractants like garbage are two causes of negative bear encounters for Yukoners. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC)

"It's very, very likely that we will encounter a bear along any trail system around Whitehorse," said Ashthorn.

"It is trickier, and it's not a popular message for obvious reasons; people of course want to offer their pets the freedom of being off leash," she said.

"Some people believe that having their dog off leash will provide protection against bears," Ashthorn added.

She said preventing bear encounters takes a "shift in behaviour," with people taking responsibility by locking away garbage and animal food, and not walking dogs off-leash.

"It's unfortunate that another bear had to be destroyed because of a negative encounter with humans."