British Columbia

'A taste for ewe': Wily bear killing, eating sheep near Victoria

Farmer Tom Henry: "I’m very keen on this bear getting shot in the head, that’s for sure."

'Serial ewe killer' cuts wide swath through Metchosin flocks while evading capture for a second summer

Sgt. Scott Norris of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service said sheep confined in small pastures are an 'easy meal' for predators. (Tom Henry)

An elusive black bear is stalking and killing sheep in the rural community of Metchosin, near Victoria.

Farmer Tom Henry, who raises pork and sheep, estimates the bear has taken between 16 and 20 sheep from his and surrounding farms, so far this summer.

Henry found one of his ewes dead from a bear attack on Saturday morning after he found one of his flocks huddled in a tight knot, showing clear signs of trauma.

"I heard some ravens in the woods and I went in and a found a ewe," Henry said. "She was on her back and completely disembowelled."

Henry said farmers in Metchosin realize that the loss of one or two animals a year from attacks by dogs, cougars or bears is something they have to accept as a consequence of living on the edge of wilderness. 

But this bear is different. 

"He's a serial ewe killer and that's really a problem for us," Henry said.

Sgt. Scott Norris with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service said the bear appears to be thwarting efforts to track and trap it. He says it attacks at night, eats a portion of its kill then moves on to another location, sometimes several kilometres away.

'A very smart bear'

"I think he's a very smart bear," Norris told All Points West host Jason D'Souza.

Norris said it is believed to be the same bear that killed multiple sheep in the same area last summer.

"He's still showing signs of a very wild bear. He's not wanting to be seen by people, he's not coming out in the daytime," he said.

"He's not coming around and knocking down garbage cans down the street like a typical habituated bear that we get in most of the areas around greater Victoria."

Metchosin farmer Tom Henry estimates 12 to 20 sheep have been killed by an elusive black bear since the start of summer. (David Wilder)

Henry said the black bear's acquired taste is taking a significant toll on local farmers' bottom line. 

"He's got a taste for ewe, which is our breeding stock," Henry said. 

"So when he kills one, he's killing effectively two lambs for next year. And he cannot be tracked because he gorges and moves on."

An unseen predator

Neither humans nor trail cameras have caught sight of the canny bear yet, and it is not known if it is a male or female. 

Meanwhile Henry said efforts to protect the sheep have not worked. When he put them inside the barn at night the bear got in and found easy pickings because its prey had no escape.

"I really feel like I'm sort of letting them down," Henry said. "And there's more — they're breeding right now, and if they're under this kind of stress I would expect their conception rate to be extremely low." 

"I don't have an easy answer, although I'm very keen on this bear getting shot in the head, that's for sure," he said.

With files from All Points West