Wildlife officials seem 'busier than normal' with bears around Whitehorse

Two black bears were killed in the last week, after being attracted to livestock and poultry in backyard farms. That brings the total to six bears killed so far this season around Whitehorse.

Two bears killed in the last week, apparently attracted to backyard goats and chickens

This bear was killed by conservation officers after it had gotten into a pen and killed a goat. 'Just judging from the bear's behaviour, it didn't seem like he was willing to give up his prey, or leave,' said conservation officer Ken Knutson. (Environment Yukon)

Yukon conservation officers say it's been a busy season so far, dealing with bears around Whitehorse. Six bears have been killed already — two of them in the last week.

Five of the animals were black bears and one was a grizzly. 

The two most recently killed bears had apparently been attracted to livestock and poultry in backyard farms. 

Yukon conservation officer Ken Knutson says a healthy male black bear was killed by a conservation officer last Friday, in the Whitehorse neighbourhood of Hidden Valley. The animal had entered a pen and killed a domestic goat.

"When we responded, the bear had killed a goat and was basically holed up in the pen, where the goat normally would be," Knutson said.

Conservation officer Ken Knutson urges people who keep livestock to take precautions. 'Once again, we're just saying to people — please put up electric fences to protect your property.' (CBC)

"Just judging from the bear's behaviour, it didn't seem like he was willing to give up his prey or leave." 

Then on Monday, a homeowner in Mount Lorne's Robinson Subdivison called to report that they'd killed a bear. 

Yukon's Wildlife Act allows people to kill wildlife that may cause irreparable damage to property, so Knutson says the kill was legal. 

"[The bear] had gotten into chicken pens in three different instances, and gotten a liking to chicken. You can't really blame the bear," he said.

That animal was a lactating sow, so Knutson says it's possible there are now orphaned cubs, though none were seen nearby. 

"We don't know," he said.

Knutson describes both recent kills as "sad," and says both could have been prevented. 

"Once again, we're just saying to people — please put up electric fences to protect your property. Properly maintained, they're a very effective way of preventing bears from getting at your property," he said. 

Electric fences can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars depending on their size and shape. Some Yukon households are off-grid and would need to power a fence through solar panels or other means.

Busy start to season

Environment Yukon officials say they get about 40 calls each year reporting bear encounters in the Whitehorse area alone. Knutson says this season appears to be off to a busy start. 

"It seems to be busier than normal. I think there's a lot of food stress in bears right now. We haven't had a lot of rain, and things seem to be slowly greening up. I am thinking it's shaping up to be a poor year for bears," he said.

"I can't emphasize enough how important it is for people to keep their attractants to a minimum." 


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