British Columbia

Close to 500 black bears destroyed this year due to human conflict, says province

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service is reminding people who live in or near bear country to make sure the animals don't have access to garbage, fruit trees and compost.

Once bears become habituated to human food sources, there's no going back

Two hunters were attacked by grizzlies in the last week. (File pictures/Canadian Press)

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service is reminding people who live in or near bear country to ensure the animals have zero access to garbage, fruit trees and compost.

In a media briefing Thursday, Mike Badry, wildlife conflict manager with the Ministry of Environment said once bears become habituated to these kinds of food sources, it's hard to change their behaviour.

"It's much more difficult — even impossible to change that behavior once they've learned to access human food sources," said Badry.

The fall period typically sees an increase in conflict — because bears are highly motivated to put on weight as they get ready for hibernation.

But Badry says in parts of the province conflicts were down this fall, due to sufficient berry crops and salmon runs, two food sources for bears..

Still, 469 black bears and 27 grizzly bears were killed due to human conflict either by conservation officers or others so far this year.

Two hunters attacked in last week

Two hunters were attacked by grizzlies in the last week alone. One bear fled, the other was shot and killed.

On Saturday, Jake Blackmore was hunting elk with his 16-year-old son in the woods near Fernie. B.C. when a female grizzly charged at him.

"I was pushing on her face trying to hit her away, yelling at her hoping she would go," said Blackmore 

"She backed off a little bit, grabbed me by my leg and shook me real good." 

Blackmore shot the bear, hitting it in the mouth and grazing its face. The grizzly was eventually scared off, and the man was taken to hospital, where he received 28 stitches.

Conservation officers decided not to destroy the bear.

Bear attack was predatory

On Sept. 30, a female grizzly mauled another hunter near the Yukon – B.C border.

Conservation officers say the attack was predatory, meaning the bear wanted to eat the man.

"The sow knocked the victim down the riverbank and into the river," said Cam Schley, inspector with the B.C. Conservation Officer Services in Smithers.

"The victim tried to fight the bear off, and at one point was able to get the muzzle of his rifle into the bear's eye, which caused the grizzly bear to jerk back a bit," Schley said.

The hunter's partner shot the bear twice, killing it, and saving the man's life.

With files from  Michelle Ghoussoub and Karen McColl