The BC Conservation Officer service has confirmed that a bear was put down in Kimberley on Saturday, September 14, 2019, despite every effort being made not to.
Sgt. Denny Chretien of the East Kootenay Conservation Officer Service was the officer who destroyed the bear. He explained that the bear in particular had generated many calls since the beginning of spring.
“This bear was very identifiable, a brown coloured bear,” he said. “He had gotten into garbage in the spring and had very high non-natural levels of food conditioning. We tried to educate the public, with WildSafeBC going door to door and tagging garbage.
“What was really concerning was this bear, around July, had started to get into vehicles, specifically truck beds, during daylight hours. He must have got a reward at some point, a piece of garbage or food, and kept going back for it. This further expanded his food conditioning.”
He went on to explain that the bear was not afraid of people, and got quite territorial around what he perceived as his garbage, his food.
“He became ornery about his property,” said Sgt. Chretien. “That should have never happened. WildSafe BC has been doing their job to educate, and so has the Kimberley bylaw officer, Kim. We try to educate the public first before placing charges but it seems to be quite the issue for some people in Kimberley.”
In terms of the bear being destroyed, Sgt. Chretien said it was his decision after witnessing the bear follow a young girl through her yard before tipping over a garbage can and grabbing it.
“With his behaviour and high level of food conditioning he was not a favourable candidate,” said Chretien. “I went to set the trap and the gentleman that called me explained that he just got charged by the bear. Then I saw a young girl with the bear running behind her before he tipped over a garbage can and left. It was in that moment I had a safe shot and thought that it was best for the safety of the public.”
The person who’s garbage was left out, explained Sgt. Chretien, has now been charged with a Dangerous Wildlife Protection order.
“We have tried our best to educate the public, but it’s coming down to the point where we are going to have to start charging people who leave their garbage out. The fines start at $345 to $745 dollars and can go up from there. For a person like this, who is a repeat offender, they could end up in court with up to $7,000 in fines.”
He adds that the maximum he has seen in fines was $100,000 and a year in jail, which he says is unusual.
“I’m hoping in this case, the fine is all they will require,” he said. “There are other people in the neighbourhood who will be hearing from us if they don’t start to manage their attractants.”
Sgt. Chretien says that three other bears have been destroyed in Kimberley this year, one that was a big problem because it was destroying properties to get to the attractants.
“We follow a strict matrix to assist us with the decision,” said Chretien. “The major deciding factor being: is this a threat to public safety?
“Other things we consider are the risk-rate of the animal, the amount of calls we receive about them, the age, gender, if it’s a mom with cubs, and how food conditioned they are. We have a safety officer that tries to educate everyone but if these bears get into a hazardous predicament, say around children, that’s when it becomes an issue.
“The last thing we want is to put the bear down. We want to have people and animals co-exist.”
He says living in a place like Kimberley, residents have to expect to deal with bears and it is their responsibility to ensure their attractants are manages.
“In the spring and right now is when bears are trying to increase their calories. From now until the end of October, bears will be in their hyperplasia period trying to bulk up for winter,” Chretien said. “And there are a few reasons why a bear will continue to return to the city. One, because there is little competition with larger more dominant bears, two, because people are leaving out bird feeders and garbage, which is an easy and high calorie meal. They don’t have to deal with any competition so they keep coming back.”
Finally, Sgt. Chretien would like to thank all of the volunteers in Kimberley and WildSafeBC for their efforts to keep wildlife wild.