The 10th bear of the season was destroyed in Whistler last week after it entered an occupied residence.
The Conservation Officer Service (COS) received a report just before midnight Thursday, Oct. 23, of a male bear in a Creekside home, leaving the occupants with no way to exit the residence. The bear was subsequently destroyed on scene.
"We haven't completely figured out how it got in," said COS Sgt. Peter Busink. "It didn't appear like the door was broken into as the latch was functional. There wasn't a lot of damage but (the door) had possibly been left ajar."
Conservation officers previously captured the animal in 2011 after it had entered several area homes. The aging bear was also missing most of its teeth, said Busink, which "put it into a very desperate situation" at a time of year when bears are trying to fatten up before hibernation.
Busink reminded the public to ensure attractants are safely stored away from wildlife. This includes Halloween pumpkins, which "represent calories that are easy for bears to access" while in a hyperphagic state. He also asked residents with latch-style lever handles on exterior doors to consider replacing them with rounded knobs.
This latest incident marks the ninth bear destroyed by conservation officers in the resort this season. RCMP wounded another bear earlier this month after it had entered the mudroom of a home in Brio. The bear escaped and is presumed dead.
The number of bear deaths this season is well above the three destroyed in 2013, although that was a historically low year for bear conflicts in the community. There were six bears killed in 2012; 17 in 2011 and 10 in Whistler's Olympic year.
Busink called the number of bear-related calls to the COS this year "fairly average for Whistler," but he has noticed a difference in bears' ability to enter homes.
"We had an abnormally high number of bears breaking into occupied residences this year," he said. "It's impossible to say why that occurred but definitely the majority of bears shot this year due to human-wildlife conflict and public safety were the result of their learning how to access human structures and entering into residences."
It's been a tough season for the Bear Smart Whistler organization, which ramped up its public information campaign in the wake of four bear deaths in the span of a week last August. Getting the right information out to the public is especially important at this critical time of year.
"Deaths that result from bears accessing attractants in peopled areas are preventable," said executive director Sylvia Dolson. "It's a time of year when we need to be extra vigilant, especially with recycling," including empty beer cans and coffee cups.
If human food sources continue to be readily available leading into the winter, there is also a risk that Whistler's bear population won't actually go into hibernation, Dolson noted.
Call the Conservation Officer Service's RAPP line at 877-952-7277 to report any wildlife sightings.