Canadian Tire pulls jelly doughnut-scented bear bait in B.C. after conservation service sounds alarm

Conservation officer Steve Ackles says attracting bears with any food product gets the bears more comfortable being around humans.

Attractant is illegal to use in the province — but it's legal to sell

Moultrie Bear Magnet advertises with slogans like 'Bears can't resist the scent of jelly-filled donuts' and 'We make the game hunt you.' (Audrey McKinnon/CBC)

Canadian Tire has quickly removed jelly doughnut-scented bear bait from its shelves in B.C. after a conservation officer raised concerns it could lead to increased bear habituation — and, eventually, bear destruction. 

The company introduced blueberry pie and raspberry jelly doughnut-scented liquid attractant to some central and northern B.C. stores last week. The product is illegal to use in the province, but it's legal to buy or sell.

Canadian Tire warned customers of the laws around bear bait before pulling the product shortly after it went on shelves. (Audrey McKinnon/CBC )

In Prince George, four jugs of Moultrie Bear Magnet were placed in the hunting section with a sign saying "customers are responsible for understanding all laws and requirements around the use of attractants."

Stores in Terrace, Quesnel and Smithers were also stocking the product.

Conservation officer Steve Ackles says hunters are generally aware that bear bait is illegal to use, but some still choose to use it and its sweetness is irresistible to bears. 

"That scent really would attract a bear and that sweetness just adds calories," he says.

'The public just isn't getting it'

Ackles says attracting bears with any food product gets the bears more comfortable being around humans.

He says adding the factor of high-calorie bear bait flavoured like human food such as pie, doughnuts or bacon, can lead bears to become defensive of human food found in garbage. 

Bears are attracted to the sweet scent of liquid bear bait, which is packed with calories. (Canadian Tire)

"The next thing we get is a complaint that the bear's getting into the garbage and you know, 'when are the conservation [officers] going to keep my children safe and do something about it?'"

That something can include bear destruction when a bear has become aggressive around people. 

Last year, nearly 500 bears were destroyed in B.C. because of human conflict.

In Kitimat alone — just south of Terrace — conservation officers have killed six bears habituated by garbage since spring. 

"The public just isn't getting it," Ackles said. "I'm talking from the wildlife photographer to the resident in the neighbourhood who just refuses to put that garbage can three feet away into their garage."

Photographers' use of bait problematic

Ackles says wildlife photographers contribute to the problem when they choose to use bear bait. 

Canadian Tire staff were knowledgeable about the laws around using bear bait for hunting but unclear about whether it can be used for photography.

Bear-human conflicts resulted in almost 500 bear deaths last year in B.C. (Bill Roth/Alaska Dispatch News via Associated Press)

The B.C. Wildlife Act doesn't specifically name photographers, but it does say a person must not use an attractant with the intent of attracting dangerous wildlife.

Ackles says whatever the reason for its use, the effect is the same on the bears.

Legal to sell, illegal to use

A statement from the Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy Communications Office says while the Provincial Wildlife Act has the authority to prohibit the use of bear bait for hunting, it does not have the authority to prohibit the sale or purchase of the product.

It says since other provinces do allow the use of bear bait, people may purchase it in B.C. to use elsewhere legally. 

Use of bear bait leads to bear habituation — and, eventually, bear destruction, conservation officers warn. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)

Canadian Tire decided to put a stop sale on the product even though it's within its rights to sell it.

It says it will put the decision to sell Bear Magnet in B.C. stores up for review.

About the Author

Audrey McKinnon

Audrey McKinnon works as a reporter, associate producer and arts contributor for CBC Daybreak North in Prince George, B.C.