Four dead bears: laws without enforcement next to useless

Whistler is a gorgeous region of our country: from the beautiful vistas to the teeming wildlife, it’s a rare gem that should always be appreciated and protected. But the desire to protect bears wasn’t enough for an unfortunate foursome who lost their lives to police and conservation officers.

In a four-day period, three bears were killed and one cub trapped and moved to a wildlife rehabilitation facility, after an escalation in conflict occurred. A fourth was killed a few days later, on August 7. According to The Pique News Magazine, the chain of events began on July 31 when a sow “with a long history of conflict” after breaking into a home. The other deaths quickly followed, ending with a bear killed at an RV resort after entering numerous homes throughout the summer months.

Sylvia Dolson, a friend of APFA and head of the Get Bear Smart Society told The Pique that the summer has been “a catastrophe.”

Dolson noted the poor berry season – a food staple for the area bears – as well as the poor behaviour of residents and visitors.

“People need to report inappropriate bear behaviour as it occurs so there's the potential to prevent it in the future with non-lethal bear aversion tactics before that behaviour escalates," said Dolson. "People also need to start deterring bears from urban and backyard spaces themselves by just not making them comfortable."

Dolson pointed out that she’d like to see stiffer penalties for people who potentially put bears in danger through feeding or other activities that encourage their presence.

We’d like to see it, too.

The educational component of the Get Bear Smart Society is outstanding – Sylvia and her team do an impressive job getting the message of not feeding, hazing and other wildlife proofing tips.

But with cutbacks to Conservation Officers throughout the country, and wildlife ever being a low priority for police forces, the enforcement end of the issue gets muddled. And until a CO is able to ring the doorbell of a homeowner or look up the contact information of a tourist and slam them with a hefty fine (along with educational literature), that enforcement will remain muddled.

Bears are a high-value commodity to Canadians: the ecotourism industry is booming, largely because people want to see our wildlife. It’s our duty not just as animal lovers or environmentalists, but as citizens and stewards of this land.

Bear conflict only happens when we, human beings, are irresponsible. And the laws need to be adjusted to reflect that.

Photo by Tracy Riddell

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