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Bear destroyed in Emerald

Bears won’t hibernate if there’s still food available, says COS

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It may be winter, but bear season is still here.

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service was forced to kill a black bear in Emerald Estates in the final week of November, the 11 th bear it’s had to destroy in 2008.

The bear, a 2 ½ year old, 110-pound male named “Oval,” had been in the Emerald area for the past three weeks. It wasn’t a very big bear but it nevertheless caused some damage in the neighbourhood.

The bear forced its way into a house through the front door and got a food reward while inside. A trap was set in that location the morning after the home invasion, but at the time it didn’t catch the bear.

Conservation Officer Drew Milne said that “lots of dogs” got into the trap and set it off, making it more difficult to catch the bear itself.

The Conservation Officer Service later received more reports about property damage involving the bear. It got into a garage and tore it up, according to Milne, taking some boards off the walls.

Milne said that some bears are still awake at this time of year.

“If there’s food still available, they’ll never actually go down to hibernate,” he said.

Milne said Oval had been a “fairly high conflict bear” and had to be relocated three times. Relocation involves moving bears less than 10 kilometres away — beyond that, officers would be taking bears out of their natural home ranges. That’s called translocation.

Oval also had two aversive conditioning programs performed on him. Those programs, administered by the COS, can include deterrents such as rubber bullets and foul-tasting chemicals to teach bears to associate humans and human food with a “scary or negative experience,” according to the Ministry of Environment.

Neither relocation nor aversive conditioning worked on Oval, who kept coming back to residences for more.

“We can’t relocate or translocate a bear that has broken into a dwelling or a structure, as it’s a public safety concern,” Milne said.

Oval is the 14 th bear killed in Whistler in 2008. Eleven have been killed by the COS, two were killed in highway accidents and another was shot in early May near Whistler Secondary School. That’s two more bears than were killed in Whistler in 2007.

Milne is sounding the same warning he issued throughout the summer — keep your food secure and your doors and windows locked. He’s imploring people not to become complacent simply because it’s winter.

“There’s still a threat that bears will invade your house or any structure that has food available that’s not secure,” he said. “There’s less bears around now, however there’s still a few that are in and around the village and surrounding subdivisions.”

Milne knows for sure that there are three bears roaming around Whistler, but there could possibly be more between Function Junction and Emerald Estates.

Milne also provided Pique with statistics from a roadcheck held between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. just south of Pemberton on Nov. 30. The roadcheck was related to hunting, angling and harvested forest products.

Officials with the RCMP, the COS and the Ministry of Forests and Range checked 45 hunters and seized a deer from one of them. The hunter had shot the deer illegally so the officials took it from him, as well as his firearm.

Another hunter was ordered to hand over a deer some days after he was stopped at the roadcheck. He complied.

Both hunters are facing charges under the Wildlife Act, but Milne did not specify what they were.

All told, there were three charges under the Wildlife Act issued at the scene, as well as two warnings and two 24-hour license suspensions for alcohol- and drug-related offences.

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