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Bears four and five destroyed

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More awareness needed to prevent more deaths in fall months

Over the past two weeks, conservation officers destroyed two more problem bears, bringing the 2001 total to five.

On Aug. 13, officers trapped and destroyed their fourth bear. The bear was entering homes in the Alpine area, and ransacking kitchens in search of food. The same bear had been previously caught around Tapley’s Farm, tagged and relocated to the Ashlu Valley northwest of Squamish.

Bear five was destroyed on Aug. 18 in Emerald Estates after it entered several homes in the neighbourhood through open windows, doors and screens. Four leg-hold snares and three traps were used to catch the bear.

The first bear was killed on June 30 when it was caught breaking into a car in Emerald to get to food. The second bear, described as an aggressive young male, tried to enter a home in Alpine while the residents were on the other side of the door shooing it away. The third was shot after it tried to access food in campers’ tents at the Riverside Campground.

Non-lethal bear management techniques were used in the majority of cases, with conservation officers and the RCMP only resorting to lethal measures when these failed.

Sylvia Dolson, the director of operations for the J.J. Whistler Bear Society believes that people could be doing more to prevent bears from being destroyed. Part of that the problem is education.

"Education is a continuing challenge, something we need to keep up on a regular basis with the transient workforce, with all the tourists coming to the valley," she says.

People need to be aware of what attracts bears to their neighbourhood, and how to treat the bears who show up.

"We’re seeing a lot of cases of bears going into homes, through screen doors and open windows. They can get onto porches and into houses. People don’t realize how well these things can climb."

Human carelessness was a factor in most of the bear deaths this year, which is actually a good thing – it means that bear killings can be avoided if people are more careful.

Although some people have made an effort to remove attractants from their backyards and porches, bears are still coming into human neighbourhoods.

"A bear wouldn’t enter into the territory or a den of another bear because they know this will get them into trouble," says Dolson. "We’re allowing them to feel too welcome."

Rather than bear-watching from our houses, we should be letting the bear know he’s not wanted, says Dolson. "If you’re in a safe place and feel comfortable, you should shoo the bear away before it becomes a problem bear."

As we head into the fall months, bear management becomes more and more important as bears eat 20 hours a day and consume approximately 20,000 calories to prepare for winter. The majority of bears destroyed in a year usually occurs during these periods.

"You need to double check your property, and make doubly sure there are no attractants around that will attract bears," says Dolson. Attractants can be everything from garbage to petroleum products such as oil and gas. A comprehensive guide to bear-proofing your home can be found on the J.J. Whistler Bear Foundation Web site at www.bearsmart.com.

Since the Whistler RCMP adopted non-lethal bear management techniques, the number of bears destroyed in the valley has declined significantly. In 1999, before officers were issued kits by the foundation, 19 bears were killed in the valley – the average before that was between 15 and 20 bears. Last year just one problem bear was killed.

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