British Columbia

2 B.C. bear families may be put down

As many as nine black bears that have lost their fear of humans may have to be put down by conservation officers in B.C.'s southern Interior, the province's environment minister says.

9 bears have lost fear of humans, but First Nation comes to animals' defence

Black bears spend the early autumn building up their fat reserves for winter hibernation, which can last five to seven months in the Interior and three to five months on the South Coast of B.C. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

As many as nine black bears that have lost their fear of humans may have to be put down by conservation officers in B.C.'s southern Interior, the province's environment minister says.

Terry Lake said two bear families are patrolling a section of bush around the Adams Lake Indian Band, about 60 kilometres east of Kamloops.

Conservation officers were expected to travel to the community Tuesday to reassess the situation, said Lake, and the ministry doesn't want to take any chances with the animals.

"They're out and about everywhere, including around the daycare," he said.

"Unfortunately, with habituated bears like this, there may be no other alternative than to euthanize them."

But not everybody, including band members and neighbours of the First Nation, share Lake's fears.

"They don't bother us," said Zoe Albert who lives next to the First Nations' community. "We like the wildlife. I'm not complaining about them because they have to live too."

In fact, Albert said several bears have been in her yard since August, eating berries and grass and fattening up for the winter.

Although the bears have walked right up to her veranda, Albert said the bruins have not been into her garbage.

Gladys Arnouse, who lives on the reserve, said she sees a mother bear and its cub walking down to the local lake in the mornings and evenings to feed on fish.

She said community members stay out of the bears' paths and make sure older children are aware of the animals.

"I mean the bears have been here forever," she said.

"We're just more careful of them. The kids have always grown up knowing that there are bears around this time of year coming down to the lake to fish."

Conservation officer Darcy McPhee, however, says it was band leaders who called conservation officers after the bears started acting aggressively toward people.

"The behavior we're seeing now is, sadly, what we typically see when bears get used to a food source," McPhee said. "They get defensive of that food source and of course, that is very concerning to us from a public safety point of view."

He said that if necessary, the adults might be euthanized and the cubs sent to a rehabilitation facility.

According to the Ministry of Environment's website, black bears spend the early autumn building up their fat reserves for winter hibernation, which can last five to seven months in the Interior and three to five months on the South Coast.

During that time, they're attracted to foods that are high in protein and energy and accessible with very little effort.

Predatory black-bear attacks are extremely rare, the ministry information said, noting attacks are usually a "defensive response to protect cubs, food or territory."

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