Opinion » Editorial


We all pulled the trigger that killed Jeanie



A heavy bar has finally been welded across the garbage-room door at one village eatery so bears can't get in and slather up oil and other human-rejected food that is oh so irresistible to the ursine creatures we share this valley with.

Sadly it seems to have taken the killing of one of Whistler's most beloved bears, Jeanie, for this action to be taken.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not just blaming the eateries that Jeanie targeted in her last few weeks of life for her ultimate demise-I'm laying the blame on the whole community.

For as long as I have lived in Whistler - over 15 years now - I have been writing about Jeanie locally, nationally and internationally. Radio stations in England and Australia have interviewed me about her.

Thanks to a BBC documentary about her life, all of my family in the U.K. know her and commonly ask about her. This week their social media posts said it all: "How could Whistler kill the bear the whole world thinks of as the community's icon?"

Good question - with a very long and complex answer. But the nut of it is we made Jeanie who she was, a human-food habituated bear, then we asked her to pay the ultimate price for our mistakes.

Jeanie helped teach the world about how bears and humans interact. And we used her to not just sell the resort and its message of natural and serene beauty, but to try and spread the message that wild creatures and people can live and thrive together in a resort.

But this week I am left questioning that very premise. Nine bears have been reported killed by vehicles on our roads this year, 13 bears have been trapped and re-located as problem bears, and 10 other bears have been destroyed as conflict bears. And this has occurred while we work inside our Bear Smart strategy. In two years we have lost half the bear population to man-made causes and the elements.

Just last month we were finally given the provincial designation of a Bear Smart community. Forgive me if I don't feel we are very "smart" right now.

Scientists the world over argue the dangers of anthropomorphizing the animals around us, but we nevertheless did that to Jeanie as a community.

And I have to then ask myself, since that was the case; did we not owe a greater duty to this 20-year-old senior bear to repay her for the life she has shared with us, with a commitment to make sure she lived out her days?