British Columbia

B.C. dairy farmer charged with killing 4 grizzly bears

A B.C. dairy farmer is charged with killing four grizzly bears after a sow with cubs was allegedly shot.

Deaths may trigger cap on grizzly hunt

Alberta's grizzly bears are slowly waking up from their winter slumber. (Ginevre Smith)

A B.C. farmer has been charged with killing four grizzly bears, after allegedly shooting a sow with cubs.

A conservation officer said it's a loss so significant, it may affect the grizzly population and limit the grizzly hunt in the region.

'A threatened species'

"Grizzly bears are considered a threatened species in this province," said Sgt. Rory Smith with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service for the Omineca Zone, based in Prince George.

"Yes, it is significant."

The alleged bear kills came to light after officials got a public complaint in 2014 about the shooting of a grizzly sow with cubs in Dunster, a mountain valley between Prince George, B.C. and Jasper, Alberta. 

That complaint led to a lengthy investigation. Charges were laid more than two years after the alleged incident.

Farmer charged with shooting grizzly sow with cubs

Now, Arlan Harry Baer is facing six charges under the Wildlife Act, including killing wildlife out of season, unlawful possession of dead wildlife, failure to report killing wildlife, failure to state location of wildlife killed, and resisting or obstructing an officer from exercising their duty. 

Baer runs a family farm, with both Holstein dairy and beef cows, about 300 km east of Prince George. He's also principal of the McBride Christian Day School, according to a B.C. government website.

Baer is scheduled to make his next court appearance in October.

Few details have been released about what happened.

But Smith, the conservation officer, said there are provisions in the Wildlife Act for ranchers and farmers to protect livestock. In this case, Smith said, crown counsel decided to approve charges against Baer.

4 dead bears could limit grizzly hunt 

Smith said limited entry hunting for grizzly bears in the region may now be imposed.

"If four bears are taken, and you don't know the sex, you have to default and assume they are all females," said Smith. 

B.C. grizzly bear expert Lana Ciarniello isn't familiar with this case. 

Still, she said the prospect of losing four female grizzly bears is serious.

'We do not want to be losing ...females'

"They are very, very slow reproducing, especially as you get into the interior of the province and off the salmon streams. We do not want to be losing or killing adult females," said Ciarniello. 

"Anytime we have a large number of females killed, we would absolutely need to  ... reassess hunting quotas," said Ciarniello, noting that would be a government call.

Ultimately, she believes the grizzly population in the Dunster region is fairly healthy. "I don't think it's going to have too much overall impact to the population."

Ciarniello said conflicts with grizzly bears are "unfortunately common" in agricultural areas.

She said some bear advocates are working at mitigating conflict between farmers and bears.

Furthermore, she said preventative measures including moving calves closer to farm houses during calving, building barriers, securely storing grain, and keeping livestock from the edge of forests can help.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Betsy Trumpener

Reporter-Editor, CBC News

Betsy Trumpener has won numerous national and provincial journalism awards, including a national network award for radio documentary and the national network Adrienne Clarkson Diversity Award. Based in Prince George, B.C., Betsy has reported on everything from hip hop in Tanzania to B.C.'s energy industry. She also covered the 2010 Paralympics for national radio news.

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