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Bold yearling bears drawing complaints from residents

Open doors, windows are inviting to young bears seeking food

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A yearling bear that walked out of a Tapley’s Farm home with a bag of fresh groceries in his mouth has been relocated to the Soo Valley.

Local Conservation Officer Chris Doyle trapped the bear last weekend after a complaint from a woman on Balsam Way.

The bear wandered into her home through an open door while she was unloading grocery bags from the car. She came upon the yearling standing on its hind legs at her kitchen counter top rifling through her grocery bags.

Doyle said this bear is one of two cinnamon-coloured yearlings, most likely siblings, who have recently split apart from their mom and are trying to get into homes for food – a behaviour they learned when they were cubs last year.

"Unfortunately these bears have learned all the wrong things from their mom," said Doyle.

The bear was caught in a culvert bear trap and after sleeping for an hour and half under a tranquilizer, he was released again in the Soo Valley.

His chances there are uncertain.

"I’m not overly confident that the bear will stay there because it is a good bear habitat so the are lots of other bears there," said Doyle.

"It may have a difficult time competing with the other bears.

"It might get pushed out. It might get killed by another bear or it might come right back to Whistler."

After relocating the yearling on the weekend, Doyle said he has had numerous follow-up complaints about his cinnamon sibling who is also getting into trouble.

Local bear researcher Michael Allen has also heard similar complaints about yearling bears this spring.

He said there are roughly a dozen yearlings roaming around the valley, with a handful pushing for human food.

"These bears are very small and they’re almost dog-like, and they’re kind of struggling to survive in the big bear world... so they’re really pushing hard for human food," Allen said this week.

He has had a few phone calls about young bears crawling into homes through windows.

Allen suggests that acting aggressively with yearling bears is the best option for scaring them away. But he cautioned that the bears must have a clear line of escape.

"You need to act very aggressive towards them if they’re around your house," said Allen.

"You can even take a step towards them and pick up something and yell at them (because) they don’t seem to be responding to a loud voice.

"But always the most important thing when you act aggressive to scare a bear away is to make sure that (you) don’t cut off its escape route."

If you come across a bear in your house, Allen suggests opening the windows and doors for escape and calling the RCMP.

The majority of the complaints so far have been coming form the Brio, Alta Vista and Blueberry neighbourhoods.

"I’m a little bit concerned as the weather warms up," said Doyle. "With all the bears around residential areas people are going to be starting to leave doors and windows open again and (I’m) worried that we’re going to have more incidences of bears entering homes."

Doyle recommends calling the 24-hour manned call centre phone at 1-888-663-WILD (9453) if anyone has a bear problem.

Or call Michael Allen who is conducting a bear count until the end of June at 604-902-1660, or e-mail mallen_coastbear@direct.ca.

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