A group of people watch bears cross the road near Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center on Sept. 16, 2020. (Courtesy Photo / Kenneth Gill, gillfoto)

Editorial: Conservation officers don’t kill bears, we do

Four bears – a mother and three cubs – were destroyed recently following a frightening incident in a Princeton residential neighbourhood.

A conservation officer, who had set a trap for a bear after it was reported trying to break into a shed, was surprised to realize an entire family was involved. At least one cub entered the trap, putting the CO between the captured cub and the sow, and shots were fired.

All four bears were put down.

That’s got to be a wrenching experience for someone who is trained and educated to protect wildlife, as well as enforce the law.

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Considerable outrage erupted on social media after a story about the incident appeared online. It was misplaced.

That conservation officer did not kill those bears. We did.

The bears died because they had become habituated to non-natural food sources. That is simply down to the people who leave out their garbage, don’t tidy up after their fruit trees, and place attractants like bird seed in their backyards.

It would be lovely in a storybook-sort-of-way to think that bears who are urbanized can be happily relocated to a green, leafy place in the forest.

Only that doesn’t work.

Bears dependent on human food fail in the wilderness. Even if they are dropped hundreds of miles away, they will return to their urban territory.

The idea persists that bears don’t hurt anyone. That’s probably because they are fuzzy and adorable looking.

The facts are that at least 17 people have been killed by bears in the province in the last 24 years and more than 200 were injured. Bears are wild animals. They need, and deserve, to live in the wild.

Yeah, yeah, they were here first. But we are here now and we don’t want to move.

Therefore social distancing is required.

Let’s try to do better with our own behaviour, to make sure situations like what happened in Princeton — and continue to happen here — don’t happen again.

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