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Bears target shoppers for food

Conservation officers forced to shoot two black bears in response to aggressive behaviour

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"After four cars were broken into on Thursday, people were trying to chase the bear away but it was responding to that and chasing back, charging them."

The public safety concern brought out the Conservation Officer Service and the RCMP. "They both responded and killed the bear," Gravel said.

"We have a high level of tolerance for black bears in Whistler, but when it becomes a public safety concern we remove the bear."

Gravel said the same bear had similar conflicts in the Function Junction area in the fall of 2011, but at the time she had cubs and they relocated her instead. She made her way back to the area, he added.

At the other end of Whistler, a second black bear was destroyed by the conservation service on Tuesday, Oct. 16 after it charged people carrying groceries, said Conservation Officer Chris Doyle.

The incidents took place along the Valley Trail between Nesters Market and the Village. That bear had been relocated on three previous occasions.

"It was recently approaching people and charging at people and running at people, and it appeared to be targeting people that were carrying groceries. Then, of course, people would run or drop the groceries and the bear would get a food reward. That behaviour was repeating itself," Doyle said.

Bears are smart enough to understand that where they find people, they'll find food, Doyle said.

Said Gravel: "Bears are willing to take more risk at this time of year, so it's even more important for the public to secure every source of food."

He added that people should not leave food in their vehicles. Bears can smell food even if the windows are rolled up, and once they know how to break windows they will do it whether they smell food or not.

"When they learn the trick of how to break in, they will do it again and again," he said. "They have been lucky in cars before so they will investigate the car, even if there's no food. Bears are very strong and it's easy for them."

This brings to a total of four bears killed this year in Whistler, which is a low number compared to recent years.

Black bears try to consume up to 20,000 calories a day this time of year in preparation for winter hibernation. Areas with human habitation become a great place to search for food.

Whistler bear researcher Michael Allen said ursine food availability in the alpine areas was better in 2012 than in the previous two years, though it wasn't optimal.