British Columbia

'A very sad day': Grizzly shot and killed days after it was relocated from B.C. island

Local First Nations and the province worked together to relocate a grizzly to give it the best chance of survival. A week later, it was shot and killed.

Several groups worked together to fly bear to remote wilderness to give it best chance of survival

The animal was airlifted by helicopter from Hanson Island in the Broughton Archipelago off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island and returned to the mainland in mid-April. It was later shot and killed in an encounter. (Submitted/Mike Willie)

A young grizzly bear that was flown out of an area near Vancouver Island in an effort to distance it from humans has been shot and killed. 

The young male bear, named Mali, prompted concerns about its habituation to humans after it found a cabin with garbage on an island and started scrounging for food. 

The bear likely swam from the B.C. mainland to Hanson Island, a small rocky outcrop among the Broughton Archipelago, a group of islands off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island.

Mike Willie is hereditary chief of the local Kwikwasut'inuxw Nation and one of the people who had been trying to save the young bear by relocating it.

He said grizzlies had only started swimming over to the Broughton Archipelago islands in the past couple of years. During that time, another grizzly that made a similar swim in nearby Kingcome Inlet was shot and killed by a local resident.

Willie did not want that to happen again, which is why he made every effort to move the bear to a safer area.

"We are really wanting to put a stop to grizzlies being shot and for conservation officers to get out of kill mode right away into relocation," Willie said in a phone interview on CBC's On The Island.

Mali the grizzly appeared to be healthy when photographed said Mike Willie, hereditary chief of the local Kwikwasut'inuxw Nation. (Submitted/Mike Willie)

Willie owns Sea Wolf Adventures, a whale and grizzly viewing company, and said members of his First Nation do not typically shoot grizzly bears.

When the other bear was shot, Willie said he reached out to the Grizzly Bear Foundation, which put him in touch with Environment Minister George Heyman.

They have been engaged in an ongoing dialogue, along with other First Nations leaders in the region, about creating a local grizzly bear response team made up of trained Indigenous watchmen.

"I think that makes sense because we live out there. We will be the first on the scene to either tranquilize and relocate, with the help of [conservation officers], or assess the situation," said Willie.

It was amid these conversations that efforts were made to remove Mali to a more remote location that would give the bear the best chance of survival. 

The location, picked in consultation with experts and First Nations, was in a remote, undisclosed wilderness area on B.C.'s mainland. 

In a joint effort by First Nations, the Grizzly Bear Foundation and the provincial government, the animal was safely caught and airlifted out by helicopter in mid-April to the chosen location. 

Watch Mali the grizzly take to the sky on his way to the mainland by helicopter:

No charges to be laid

Unfortunately, the B.C. Conservation Service says the bear was shot and killed by a citizen on April 20, during an act of self defence. The service says it has concluded its investigation, and charges will not be laid.

The bear was killed more than 30 kilometres away from the isolated area where it was released, suggesting it had travelled across rugged terrain and water before the fatal encounter.

In a statement, Willie said news of the bear's death marks "a very sad day for all of us."

Nevertheless, he said, the work would continue.

"We are continuing down the path of reconciliation with the province and will work together in putting a program together to protect grizzlies," he said.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that a grizzly bear was shot by a conservation officer in Kingcome Inlet. That bear was, in fact, shot by a local resident.
    Apr 27, 2020 6:32 AM PT

With files from On The Island, Bridgette Watson

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