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Black bear Jeanie killed after challenging behaviour

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Sylvia Dolson of the Get Bear Smart Society had a bad feeling when she went away on holiday. The berry crop was one of the worst in decades, and an increase in human-bear conflict seemed likely.

She was especially concerned about Jeanie, Whistler's iconic black bear, and her cub.

"I had been keeping in touch via email and I knew of her escalating conflict behaviour in the last few weeks," said Dolson. "I was working with the CO (Conservation Officer Service) and our program coordinator Dawn Johnson to try and prevent something like this happening."

But last Friday her worst fear was realized when conservation officers destroyed Jeanie.

The black bear has been a fixture in Whistler for close to two decades, easily identifiable from the triangular patch of white fur on her chest. Over the years she has been featured in books and in a documentary, and when people came to Whistler and booked tours to see bears it was often Jeanie and her most recent cubs that made the experience.

"Jeanie was a bear that was so tolerant of people," said Dolson. "She allowed us into her life, and she taught us a lot over the last 20 years about managing bears and about bear behaviour, it was her gift that she gave us."

That familiarity with people may have contributed to her death.

After three weeks of conflict behaviour conservation officer Chris Doyle said there was little choice left but to destroy Jeanie. She was caught in a trap by the conservation office service, tranquilized and then killed with a gunshot. Her cub was sent to the Mountain View Wildlife Conservation centre in Langley for rehabilitation and will eventually be released back into the wild on Whistler Mountain.

"There was a recent and escalating conflict of a very serious nature," said Doyle. "Specifically, she was breaking into restaurants. She started in the Roundhouse Lodge, where she broke into the building and gained access to the kitchen, and while she was there she charged employees - and she charged employees outside the Roundhouse as well.

"She acted very aggressively to pedestrians outside the Longhorn, attempted to get into the gondola building, and we got a report that she broke into the GLC that we're looking into. She had broken into Milestones a few times in the last couple of weeks, and got into there and acted aggressively to people inside and outside the restaurant."

Doyle said that Jeanie had a long conflict history going back several years, but she also usually responded to non-lethal bear aversion tactics. She was also caught and relocated in her home range several times.

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