Conservation officers killed a bear last weekend after it entered a business on Blackcomb Mountain.
The four-year-old bruin managed to access the Canadian Wilderness Adventures (CWA) building on Glacier Lane through a garage door that was left unlocked. The Conservation Officer Service (COS) confirmed the female bear found a staff member's lunch and bluff-charged employees when they tried to scare her off.
"We've been asking people in Whistler for years to always monitor their access and lock their doors," said Sgt. Simon Gravel with the COS. "It's so easy for a bear with this type of behaviour to go to the next level and open doors and access food."
The public is discouraged from using lever-style handles on doors, which are easier for bears to access than doorknobs and other handle types.
"Securing all those access points, either at ground level or anywhere (bears) can readily climb up to, is super important," explained Whistler Get Bear Smart Society director Sylvia Dolson.
The incident is being reviewed to determine if fines will be levied against CWA.
"They could have been negligent, so we will definitely take the proper enforcement action and make sure we get compliance," Gravel said.
CWA co-owner Allan Crawford said the company would work with Bear Smart to ensure it has the correct practices in place. He noted the garage door is normally left unlocked and "wide open" during the workday. In this instance, however, the garage door was closed and the bear appeared to "nose its way" through.
"We haven't put much focus on (educating staff on bear-smart practices) around the work area, but we should and we will be," added Crawford. "It's a terribly unfortunate incident and we're definitely upset."
Named Olive, the bear that was killed was a regular of both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains and fed on clover "95 per cent of the time," according to Dolson.
There were signs she had accessed unnatural food in the past, though. Gravel said Olive was captured in 2014 and was "suspected to have done a similar thing in a different building," causing property damage. At the time, however, there were several other bears observed in the area and the COS wasn't "100-per-cent sure" they had caught the right bruin.
"This time, of course, we are sure," Gravel said. "It's doing the same behaviour." Throughout its investigation, the COS also determined a bear matching Olive's description had recently been spotted in the area eating human food — information that wasn't relayed until it was too late.
"It is important to report bears accessing garbage in Whistler to the COS, not because we're going to go and kill the bear, but because we go in and take proactive measures with all our partners," said Gravel. "But that will only work if we have the information early and we can go in and intervene during the conflict stage."
The COS has also been working with the municipal Bylaw Department to crack down on illegal camping in Day Lots 6 and 7 and to prevent attractants being left unsecured. Gravel said several bylaw tickets have been issued in recent weeks.
The COS, Bear Smart, the municipality and the Whistler Wildlife Protection Group have partnered to spread the word of a male bear that had been seen accessing garbage in Nordic over the past couple weeks. That stepped up enforcement, paired with several deterrents placed at specific locations, has so far appeared to be effective, with no recent reports of conflict behaviour, Gravel said, although the COS continues to monitor the situation.
A new tool the COS will soon have at its disposal is an electric mat that is typically used to guard cattle that officers can deploy as needed in areas where bears are causing issues. The COS partnered with Bear Smart on the purchase.
"Electrical shock is a very effective way of deterring a bear," Dolson added.