A 24-year-old West Vancouver resident has been arrested and is expected to be charged in connection with the shooting death of a black bear cub near Whistler Secondary School on Thursday, May 8.
The incident took place along the Valley Trail north of the Alpine Meadows subdivision at about 8:30 a.m. when students and staff were arriving at the school, according to an RCMP news release.
A witness saw the bear and soon after heard two shots. The witness then saw a male getting into a vehicle holding what she believed was a shotgun.
The witness wrote down the vehicle licence number and called the RCMP. A suspect was located within 15 minutes of the report and arrested without incident.
The accused shooter has not been identified but is expected to face charges under the Criminal Code including careless use of a firearm and unsafe storage of ammunition. He may also face three charges under the Wildlife Act: hunting during a closed season, discharging a firearm in a no shooting area, and hunting without a licence.
Sgt. Steve Wright, operations supervisor with the RCMP’s Whistler detachment, said police are now trying to retrieve the shotgun. He added that the shooter has not cooperated with the police investigation.
“He’s not providing an account as to the whereabouts of the gun that he had in the vehicle, as to why he shot the animal (or) what he was doing in the area,” Wright said.
“We still have not recovered the shotgun, we’re satisfied that it’s not in the school area,” Wright said. “All I know is it’s a long-barrelled weapon. The witness thought it was a shotgun, but that hasn’t been confirmed.”
A quantity of ammunition was recovered from the vehicle.
The accused, who is still in custody, will be released after the five charges are laid by the Crown.
RCMP utilized a police dog from Squamish to search the school grounds and the surrounding area for the gun.
“Well we're still working with the police dog, searching a couple of areas in Alpine, and we want to stress to the public that if they do find a weapon that they're to treat it as a loaded weapon and not to touch it.”
Wright said the bear cub was being fed by the high school students. He is warning the public not to do so in future.
“Not only is it illegal but also it will create problems later on,” he said. “It makes a very aggressive bear that way, setting it up for a major conflict with humans.”
Bear researcher Michael Allen was alerted about the bear’s presence by the school in late April. He said he then checked on the bear daily and found that it was staying in a skunk cabbage swamp near the school. He also said he was told that students had thrown apples to it.
“The bear seeing that people throw food to it, that’s not a good thing because then the bear associates a food reward coming from a person,” he said.