Opinion » Pique'n Yer Interest

Person killed for encouraging bear



Whistler, B.C. — One human is dead after causing a bear to enter an occupied building on Sunday evening.

A four-year-old black bear known as Olive entered the business, located on Glacier Lane on Blackcomb Mountain, in search of food. She remained unfazed by staff members' attempts to scare her off. "She was able to open an unsecured door and walk right in," explained Lt. Jim Pebble of the Conservation of Obnoxious Humans Service (COHS).

In recent weeks, Olive had found food left by this human in places ranging from the bed of a pickup truck to bushes on Glacier Lane.

"A human that causes a bear to enter an occupied building is very high on our spectrum of conflict, and above the threshold of tolerance," Pebble explained. "When humans have this kind of behaviour, we're very concerned about what can happen."

Now, officials are asking for the community's cooperation before another similar situation occurs. Pebble said the COHS's next step will be enforcement to ensure all humans in the area are managing attractants in compliance with the Wildlife Act.

"It's important that humans never leave garbage out, and there's no room for even one little mistake," he said. "It's also important that people call these in. It's difficult to make people understand that we're not there to kill humans; our job is to prevent that... We need the information (on food and garbage access) because we know intervention is a human's best chance to avoid further conflict. If we don't get called until the conflict level is already a safety risk... well, there's not much more we can do."

Pebble points to the current situation in the Nordic neighbourhood, where an increasingly careless human has so far been kept at bay using non-harmful deterrents. Throughout the past couple of weeks, the human in question has been rewarding a curious male bear with food, causing it to approach windows, walk towards people and venture onto a balcony. "We had a report that other people were trying to chase this human away and it was very indifferent, showing signs of habituation to the bear," he added.  

The COHS is working with local stakeholders, including bylaw officers patrolling for unsecured attractants and members of the Whistler Human Protection Group — who went door-to-door to help educate Nordic residents — in an effort to convince the offending human to move along, hopefully saving it from the same fate as Olive's tormentor.

"We're doing everything we can to change this human's behaviour, because it's kind of one step away from being above the threshold of tolerance," Pebble said. "A human like this, in our experience, is close to encouraging a bear to directly enter a house or another confined area. Then it becomes a very serious public safety concern."

While the COHS has installed deterrents like sprinklers at the residence where the human was "persistently" encouraging a bear to gain access, Pebble said efforts to scare the human away will be unsuccessful if the community fails to get onboard. Residents can call Bylaw about attractants left by this human, and report direct encounters to COHS.

As Get Human Smart Society director Cynthia Dawson reminds residents, "humans who leave anything on their property that smells or looks like food to bears is not welcome in Whistler."  

Although many Whistlerites are well-versed in proper waste disposal practices, Dawson cautions residents to be wary of those who don't manage lesser-known attractants like empty beer and pop cans, barbecue grease, compost, bird seed, citronella candles and even vinyl and styrofoam hot tub covers.

Get Human Smart is also in the process of collecting donations for an "unwelcome mat" that the COHS can use as a deterrent in situations like Nordic's. The electric mats shock humans that step on them. "It's not a constant shock, it goes on and off so it doesn't electrocute you," Dawson explained.


This is a spoof of an article published June 13 in the Whistler Question about a bear that had to be put down. It has been edited for length and names have been changed.

Sadly, the bear habituated to the Nordic neighbourhood has since had to be destroyed, as humans failed to change their behaviour enough to save it.