Two more bears have been destroyed in the Sea to Sky region, the sixth and seventh so far this year.
The first incident involved a sow and her two cubs that had been entering occupied residences in the Alpine area of Whistler over the last few weeks, said the Conservation Officer Service.
On Tuesday, July 8, the bear and her cubs entered two houses in one afternoon.
On the second occasion, a conservation officer was able to respond and destroyed the bear.
The cubs were transferred to the Critter Care rehab centre in Langley, where they will remain until they can be relocated in the Whistler area next spring.
The next incident saw a conflict bear trapped in a car Tuesday after it had learned how to access vehicles, causing thousands of dollars in damage, said COS Const. Simon Gravel. A trap was set after the bear was freed from the car by officers, and was captured and killed Friday, July 11.
"This one learned how to open car doors, so we captured it in 2012 and tagged and relocated it," he explained. "It came back and had the same behaviour and caused property damage multiple times."
A female bear was also captured Friday before being relocated as the COS could not be sure it was the same animal reportedly entering homes in the Bear Ridge complex on Spring Creek Drive.
"We eventually captured the bear we suspected, but we weren’t 100-per-cent sure because it had no distinct markings and it wasn’t tagged," Gravel said, who once again stressed the importance of residents reporting wildlife conflicts as soon as they occur.
"One thing I’ve noticed in the last few weeks chasing bears all over the place is often people still don’t report (conflicts)," he explained. "For us, to be proactive and prevent bears from being a hazard to the public, there’s lots we can do in terms of education, prevention, and even hazing or relocating some bears … but to do so we have to know about those events."
Gravel warned residents near the Alpha Lake Village townhouse complex south of Function Junction of a sow and her cub recently spotted in the area. He reminded people heading to Alpha Lake to ensure any food they bring with them is properly secured and not left out for bears to find.
The bear mortality rate this season — five dead in the Whistler area alone — is completely unsustainable for the population, said Sylvia Dolson of the Get Bear Smart Society.
"We have reached the annual rate of sustainable, human-caused bear mortality," Dolson said.
"Anything that happens beyond this is completely not sustainable for our bear population."
The Whistler-area bear population has seen major decline in recent years, going from an estimated 80 to 100 five or six years ago to around 60 this year.
"We've certainly had way worse years and we've had way better years," Dolson said.
"For me, as an advocate for the bears, one bear is too many, and certainly once we've reached the annual rate of sustainable, human-caused bear mortality, it's way too many."
The number of conflict kills varies based on food availability, Dolson said.
"It's just going off right now all over town, and that's because we're in between mating season and a full berry crop," she said.
The number of human-bear conflicts should decrease in the coming weeks once berries start to ripen, but until then Whistlerites need to be extra vigilant, Dolson said.
"For cubs, an urban upbringing rarely leads to a positive outcome, so we really have to help bears overcome their natural tendency to grab the easy meal," she said.
That means keeping garbage and recycling secure until it can be properly disposed of, keeping barbecues clean and removing grease collectors when not in use, removing things like bird feeders and hummingbird nectar from your yard and keeping your compost clean with brown materials like leaves.
"We can't allow bears to become comfortable on our properties either," Dolson said.
"There were lots of photos of that mother, when she had three cubs, playing in the sprinklers on somebody's property and lots of pictures of her around the neighbourhood, and they looked really cute, but with them getting used to living in residential and feeling super comfortable on our turf, it just wasn't going to lead to a good ending."
Rather than take pictures, humans should make sure the bears know that they aren't welcome on residential property, Dolson said.
"That bear has to know in no uncertain terms that, "Whoa, this is not a place I'm supposed to be,' but it needs to be done from a safe place," she said.
"If you just open your door and start yelling at the bear and banging pots and pans, it's way more helpful than taking pictures and going on about how cute the whole situation is."
For more information about how you can help prevent human/bear conflict visit the Get Bear Smart Society online at www.bearsmart.com, on its Facebook page (Bear Smart) or its YouTube channel Get Bear Smart.
To report wildlife sightings or conflicts, call the COS at 1-877-952-7277.
With files from Brandon Barrett.