Mill Bay firefighters helped successfully extract a young bear from a tree in a residential Cowichan Valley neighbourhood June 6, but the story did not have the feel-good ending they had hoped.
The bear was euthanized and B.C. Conservation Officer Scott Norris is not at all happy about it.
“The neighbourhood failed this bear,” Norris said. “They didn’t lock up their garbage and other attractants like they should be doing and we get called in situations like this. We had to euthanize it. That’s the saddest and most frustrating part of the job. It provides a significant amount of stress for officers. When you have to continually euthanize animals it’s not a fun job.”
Just before 4 p.m. the bell sounded for Mill Bay Fire Rescue to join Shawnigan Lake RCMP and the BC Conservation Officers Service on Princess Avenue in Cobble Hill.
“This time of year we’ve got a lot of bear calls in the Cowichan Valley, lots of bears are looking for food and territory and they have a tremendous ability to smell from great distances,” Norris said. “As a result bears will make their way closer to homes and find unsecured garbage. Once a bear becomes habituated to human food sources, we’re unable to relocate those bears because there’s a greater public safety risk.”
The bear was a yearling, Norris said — a year, maybe a year-and-a-half old — and underweight.
“A skinny bear not in great shape,” he said, adding there’d been reports spanning more than a week before the bear was caught that it had been raiding the neighbourhood garbages of those not locking them up securely in their sheds or garages.
In fact, when the first officer arrived at the scene, the bear was eating garbage.
People need to understand that they’ve got a duty to keep bears safe and wild, Norris said.
“They complain that they don’t want to keep their garbage in the garage because it smells. But a bungee cord or a brick on it isn’t going to cut it. They’re strong animals and very persistent.”
It’s not just garbage but recycling that’s an attractant because there’s often food waste still on some recyclables and if it smells like food, bears will eat it.
Norris noted a recent bear necropsy in Nanaimo revealed a euthanized bear there had aluminum foil and garbage in its stomach.
“They’re eating all those food scraps and that’s what’s making them sick,” he said.
“Lock up the garbage, keep the fruit picked. If you can’t pick it, there’s organizations that will pick the food for you and you get part of the fruit and the rest gets donated,” he said. “There are ways.”
Visit wildsafebc.com to learn more about bears and attractant management.
1-877-952-RAPP (Report All Poachers and Polluters) is a toll free anonymous 24/7 line for reporting any known or suspected violations of fisheries, wildlife or environmental protection laws.