Garbage continues to create bear conflicts

Garbage and bears are creating conflict in Port Hardy this year

Two more bear cubs are hanging around the District of Port Hardy. According to RCMP St. Sgt. Gord Brownridge, the two cubs, who were estimated to weigh about 40 pounds each, were trapped behind a gate under a porch on the Tsulquate reserve. Police responded to the residence after they received a call from Andrea Walkus. The members opened the gate and helped the cubs escape and shooed them into the woods, Brownridge said. However, one of the cubs returned several days later, Walkus said. There are conflicting reports about the cubs’ mom. “I heard the mom was shot a couple of weeks ago,” Walkus said. Brownridge said Port Hardy RCMP have not been advised of a bear being shot in the community.

Conservation Officer James Hilgemann, stationed in Black Creek, said they have not heard anything about a bear being shot either. Hilgemann said anyone who shoots a bear is legally required to report it to the Conservation Service and it is only lawful to shoot a bear if it is posing an imminent threat – not just walking through a backyard. “The last thing we need is a wounded bear,” Hilgemann said. Walkus said she phoned RCMP early in the morning on Saturday, Oct. 31. “We were getting ready to go to Gold River. I went to grab our cloth shopping bags and saw a big mess.” I ran downstairs to tell my husband, because he was loading up our truck. He came up and saw the mess and said it was too much mess for a cat to have made,” Walkus said. “He grabbed a flashlight and saw them under our recycling bins. One of them was resting his head on his paws. The other cub was behind him,” she said.

Another Port Hardy bear was not so fortunate.”We had a trap set at the Cedar Park Trailer Park for the last week,” said Hilgemann. Residents have had issues with a couple bears that are indifferent to people, and habituated to garbage, Hilgemann said. The Conservation Service received numerous reports of a bear trying to get into sheds and damaging garage doors. When they arrived at the trailer court to set a trap, Conservation Officers found a trailer with an absentee landlord that had 10 to 15 bags of garbage under it. The bear had moved in underneath this trailer and was foraging under it, Hilgemann said. The bear was caught and determined to be a very old, large black bear weighing between 400 and 500 pounds and missing one eye. “It got destroyed. There’s no rehabbing for those (habituated bears), no second chance,” said Hilgemann.

Conservation currently has traps set in Fort Rupert where there have been reports of a problem sow and cubs, Hilgemann said.It has been a busy year for human/wildlife conflicts and Conservation Officers. “We’ve got four officers in Black Creek that cover from Denman Island all the way up to Bella Bella,” said Hilgeman. This year, these four officers covered the Campbell River district which had 927 human/wildlife conflict reports and the North Island (Sayward North) which had 230. Each complaint is risk ranked and officers respond to those deemed to be the highest risk. Human/wildlife conflicts encompass everything from problem bears to cougars, but bear complaints were high this year. “Definitely bear complaints are up probably threefold,” he said. This is due to the “perfect storm” that occurred this summer – a failed berry crop which ended a month earlier than usual; drought; low water in streams resulting in Pink salmon not showing up until later and “not in the numbers that we had last year”; and an abundance of fruit in town, Hilgemann said.

While they are still receiving complaints, calls are slowing down, he said, however people are asked to call the Report a Poacher number at 1-877-952-7277 to report all incidences, not talk about them on Facebook. The line is open 24-7. “It’s critical that they report it to the RAP number,” he said, adding that conflicts are a people problem. “We’ve got to put more pressure on people to be good neighbours. Everybody has to do their part,” he said, including picking up fruit and being responsible for garbage management. “We’ve created this problem,” he said, adding “public safety is first and foremost.” The North Island will be getting a replacement for Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant who was suspended, then transferred to Forestry, after refusing to put down two healthy, nursing bear cubs in July. An arbitration hearing is scheduled for January. Conservation Officer Jon Paquin will be starting officially at the end of November. “He will be stationed in McNeill like Bryce was,” said Hilgemann. Paquin has been in Merritt for the last year and a half.

 

 

 

 

 

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