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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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As a result of this, and of around 25 deaths of bears hit by cars and another 25 bears shot as "problem bears", over the last couple of years there were fewer bears in the region. "The population got knocked in half," Allen said. Over the 2010-2011 famine period, cubs were even being eaten by adult male bears — something he hadn't observed before.

Allen said that as a result, Whistler's bear population was now at a low point in its cycle, with around 40 to 50 in the region, down from 100.

"And we've come out of 2010 and 2011 as the worst berry years in the 19 years I've been here. I was hoping we wouldn't get three in a row. This year was better than last year... we had a warm, early spring that knocked down the snow pack, but then it fell back into a dark, cold, rainy June when berries get pollinated. Then we went into a hot August and September," he said. "It helped but then you get into September and you started to see the plants stressing out, berries shrivelling in the forest."

Allen said the surviving bears "have got it made" as there is less competition for food. He expected up to 20 newborn cubs in the spring, with many more pregnant females than this time last year.

To report problem bears please call the RAPP line: 1-877-952-7277.

— With files by Andrew Mitchell and John French.