Authorities killed a black bear Friday morning near a backcountry campground southwest of Whistler, B.C., after ripping several backpacks from hangers installed by BC Parks to ward off the bear food.
BC conservation officers euthanized the bear Garibaldi Provincial Parkfrom Taylor Meadows campground, about 20 kilometers southwest of Whistler.
The black bear exhibited “behaviour deemed too risky for public safety,” the province’s environment ministry said.
“Taking down any bear is an unfortunate outcome that we work so hard to prevent,” a ministry spokesperson said in a statement. “The bear repeatedly accessed food bags from caches, returned to the campsite several times, and showed minimal fear of people.
“Bears that are conditioned to human food sources are not candidates for relocation or rehabilitation, due to the risk to public safety.”
BC conservation officers killed 581 black bears last year, province says Freedom of Information Documents obtained by the Fur-Bearers defense organization.
This is above the average for the past seven years, in which a total of 3,779 bears were euthanized.
“A problem of popular education”
As bears’ appetites grow ahead of winter hibernation, experts say they are increasingly moving to popular spots where they wouldn’t normally be.
Euthanizing habituated bears is a deeply unfortunate outcome for people who bring food into the backcountry — and who often store it improperly or don’t clean it properly after cooking, said Jay MacArthur, president. BC Federation of Mountain Clubs Trail Committee.
“I don’t want to see bears get killed, it’s terrible,” he said. “But, you know, it’s really a people training issue, not so much a bear issue – you can’t re-educate a bear.
“Once a bear gets used to eating human food, there’s unfortunately not much it can do.”
Several areas of the same the park had to be closed to visitors this year, including the Singing Creek and Cheakamus Lake campgrounds, because bears are increasingly attracted to human food.
CBC News video from the Taylor Meadows campground showed a black bear impatiently climbing a tree, trying to reach a handful of campers’ backpacks hanging from overhead wires on a pulley system – a cache of food designed to protect bags from bears.
A bear was shot after being seen repeatedly grabbing backpacks in Garibaldi Provincial Park. Experts say they are noticing some bears moving into areas where they wouldn’t normally be spotted. Baneet Braich has the details. pic.twitter.com/KVNymoU8gO
The Taylor Meadows area, west of Lake Garibaldi, is usually a popular site for bears with all of its berry bushes, as they eat as much food as they can before hibernating.
But the end of summer and the cold, wet weather this season is different from other years, according to the president of the Friends of Garibaldi Park Society.
“I’m not surprised to hear that the bear was shot,” Taryn Eyton said in an interview. “In a situation where he accesses human food, it’s really unavoidable.
“Many of the bears’ traditional food sources weren’t available as early as they usually are.”
On Thursday, two separate handwritten notes affixed by campers to the official BC Parks food cache sign said a bear had taken at least one backpack from raised wire hangers provided by the province to keep food away bears.
A note, dated Wednesday, said a bear had taken a red backpack from the cache, which campers found in the forest along with a black and green bag. “The bear was guarding him and another pack,” the note read.
The second note, also from Wednesday, read: “Warning: a bear has taken a backpack full of food from the rope in the bear cache near the tree! He will be back!!”
Remind the public to take precautions
Advocates are once again reminding campers to take precautions to avoid future tragedies – for humans and for bears like the one killed on Friday.
Prevention tips include:
- Use the bear-proof containers and food caches provided.
- Never bring even small amounts of food into your tent.
- Consider sleeping in different clothes than you cooked in, as bears have very sensitive noses.
The province said in a statement that BC Parks and the Conservation Officer Service are urging campers to take precautions in bear country, “including traveling in groups, wearing bear spray and ensuring that attractants are stored securely”.
MacArthur wants the province to hire more park rangers because existing staff are burned out and don’t have enough time to educate problem campers.
He also hopes BC Parks will install more metal boxes that bears can’t take food from – unlike wire hangers hanging from food, which he said bears can treat “like a game”. .
He adds that bear safety and prevention warnings are not prominent enough on BC backcountry booking websites.