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Despite public push, Nordic bear killed after accessing vehicles

Second bear killed in less than a week in Whistler

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Despite the best efforts of local groups, conservation officers killed a black bear this weekend after it entered several vehicles.

On Saturday evening, June 17, the Conservation Officer Service (COS) attended the Nordic area following a report of a bear breaking into parked cars. Tim Schumacher with the COS said the male bear managed to access three vehicles in just 10 minutes. Officials believe it was the same bear that was recorded casually opening a car door in a video that went viral last week after it was broadcast by Global News.

"This particular bear, we put a lot of effort into trying to change its behaviour," noted Schumacher. The bear, named Bjorn, came to officials' attention earlier this month after a group of people unsuccessfully tried to spook the bruin while it was perched on a patio in Nordic.

The COS installed deterrents at several sites around the neighbourhood and teamed up with the municipal Bylaw Department to issue tickets to anyone caught failing to secure their attractants. In one recent instance in Bayshores, an individual was charged under the Wildlife Act after the bear got some seafood through the open window of a vehicle.

The COS also collaborated with the Whistler Get Bear Smart Society and the citizen-led Whistler Wildlife Protection Group (WWPG) to spread the word of the importance of securing attractants. A hashtag, #SaveBjorn, even popped up on Twitter.

The WWPG's Ranya Dube, who went on a door-knocking campaign through Nordic, spoke to the frustration she's felt trying to raise awareness of proper bear-smart practices in a growing community.

"I volunteer, I'm putting in 15 hours a week doing this and there are just too many people to educate and too many people who don't care," she said.

"It all comes back to the culture. We're expanding and expanding but everyone that's coming here, do they have the same values as we do?"

Even with the public push, Schumacher said it's unlikely the bear's behaviour could have been changed by the time it was on the community's radar.

"In my personal experience, we have to get to bears before they get to this point," he said. Bjorn had been previously tagged and relocated out of Whistler after he found food at a construction site in 2015.

This is the second bear killed in Whistler over the past week. A four-year-old female bruin was destroyed by the COS last Sunday, June 11, after it found food in an adventure business building on Blackcomb Mountain that was left unlocked.

In downtown Squamish, a sow and two cubs were killed by COS on Sunday, June 18 after the animals caused "extensive" property damage and were found repeatedly eating garbage. The cubs were not eligible for rehabilitation as they had been in conflict with humans before, according to the COS.

The District of Squamish is warning people to secure bear attracts or face consequences.

Both Schumacher and Dube expressed concern that this most recent incident will reinforce the perception among some in the community that a call to the COS means automatic death for a bear.

"I do worry about that perception, but I know not everyone has that perception." Schumacher said. "The people who do are misinformed."

Reports can be made to the COS by calling 1-877-952-7277. Bylaw violations in the event of attractants being left unsecured can be reported to the municipality at 604-935-8280 during business hours. After hours, the RCMP can be reached at 604-932-3044.

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