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bears shot

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Two more bears killed at Whistler dump By Andy Stonehouse Two bears' addiction to the by-products of Whistler's success cost them their lives as the animals were shot by conservation officers on July 17. According to provincial wildlife officer Dave Elliott, the two young bears had become a constant presence at the Whistler landfill and had completely lost their fear of humans. "We'd received several complaints that these two bears had become habituated on garbage and were hanging around the gate," Elliott said. "They would come by two or three times a day until the doors were open." Elliott said it's regretful that the bears had to be killed but suggested that the animals would have posed a danger to humans even if they were moved to another location. "We had no choice but to shoot them. If we had captured these two bears and sent them off somewhere else, they would still associate people with food and they'd be visiting people in tents." Despite this and a previous shooting at the dump, plus a terrible incident along Rainbow Drive which left a dead bear stuck high in a tree, Elliott said this season has actually proved much less lethal for the local bear population. "The problem is way down from last year, but we're still seeing a couple of problem areas, especially in Tapley's Farm and near Blueberry. Bears have been getting up onto people's decks... we had a report of one bear up on a deck in Creekside for two hours." Elliott said other urban incidents have seen bears smash in the window of a van parked along Tyrol Lane for just a small amount of garbage in the front seat, as well as a bear ripping the siding off of a house in an attempt to get into the basement. In many of these cases, Elliott said he and fellow conservation officer Dan LeGrandeur have responded and brought along their live bear trap trailer, but the animals have refused to play along. "We've seen a lot of bears that have lost their fear of humans and are very aggressive. If they're frequently in the area, they become a problem." A few years ago, it was more common for problem bears to be airlifted out of the area by helicopter and relocated, using funds provided by the Jennifer Jones Whistler Bear Foundation. Elliott said the success rate associated with the relocations wasn't that good and the method is no longer a main priority. "We try to do it when we can transport a sow and her cubs, unless they're habituated on garbage. Recently, there's not that many relocations done by helicopter." Province-wide, the ministry of environment, lands and parks spends over a million dollars a year dealing with problem bears. Elliott and LeGrandeur are the only conservation officers serving the area from Lions Bay to Pemberton. In an associated development, two Fraser Canyon residents have been charged under the provincial wildlife act for trafficking in bear parts. Acting on a tip from a hunter, conservation officers from the Lower Mainland began an undercover investigation in October 1997. Over a 20 month period, officers completed several transactions in bear parts with two Boston Bar men. Yuan Mae He and Paul MacDonald face a total of 14 charges under the provincial Wildlife Act. The maximum penalty for the charges against He and MacDonald is $10,000 and/or six months in prison. Last July, the province passed new regulations enhancing an existing bear parts trade ban. The new rules make it illegal to possess even the bile taken from a bear's gall bladder, a product which is sometimes used as a herbal remedy in traditional Asian medicine. Environment ministry staff say the problem of poaching bears for their paws and organs is particularly troubling because poachers will often only get $20 to $30 for the products on the black market, despite having to kill the animals.

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