British Columbia

Five bears killed after coming too close to elementary school in Penticton, B.C.

Five bears were shot by conservation officers in Penticton Thursday after venturing too close to Wiltse Elementary School.

Animals drew dozens of complaints since the summer, says conservation officer

These five bears travelled together in a pack in the Okanagan city of Penticton, B.C., before being put down by conservation officers on Thursday. (Submitted by Tobe Sprado/Conservation Officer Service)

Five bears were destroyed by conservation officers in Penticton, B.C., Thursday after the group ventured too close to an elementary school.

Tobe Sprado, an inspector for the Okanagan region with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, says the service has received 44 complaints about these particular bears since August.

"We were hoping that we're going to be able to coexist with these bears," Sprado said. "But things had escalated over that period of time."

Sprado said the bears were attracted to garbage and fruit, and were starting to cause property damage.

On Wednesday afternoon, things escalated after one of the bears charged a person out walking.

"That [was] an aggressive behaviour that definitely put these bears more on our radar," Sprado said. 

"Then when they entered into the vicinity of the elementary school, we ended up making the decision to put down all five bears."

The children and teachers were kept inside until the bears were shot dead.

Bears can cause problems in towns and cities as they look for food to eat before winter hibernation. (Submitted by Rachel Rowbottom)

Unusual grouping

Sprado said the bears would travel together in a pack, unusual for black bears. The group comprised three adult male bears and two females who were sub-adults.

"It wasn't your typical sow with the cubs at all … [it's] a bit of an anomaly from what we're used to dealing with," he said. "They could be a bunch of siblings."

Sprado said his team was emotionally drained and frustrated by the turn of events. 

It comes a little over a week after six bears were shot in the space of three days in the area of Lake Okanagan Resort northwest of Kelowna. In that case, the bears were eating garbage that hadn't properly been secured and had lost their fear of humans.

An undisclosed company near Kelowna was fined $230 and ordered to improve the way it stores its garbage.

Sprado implored people to safely secure bear attractants like garbage, fruit, as well as pet food, bird feeders, barbecues and compost. 

With files from Radio West, Blaine Gaffney

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