In one of the worst years for human-bear conflicts in the Elk Valley, 12 black bears and two grizzly bears were put down in the Fernie area, while 17 black bears were killed around Sparwood, according to staff at the B.C. Conservation Officer Service.
“Several bears were injured on the highway and had to be euthanized, but the majority of cases were bears who had become habituated to human food sources and were showing levels of aggression toward people,” said Ryan Gordon, Fernie’s Conservation Officer (CO).
Gordon says euthanizing a bear is not an easy decision or one officers take lightly.
Below are the bear stats for this year in the Elk Valley from April 1, 2021 to November 25, 2021. Gordon said that they are still receiving bear complaints so these numbers may increase slightly.
The following table represents calls received through the RAPP call center on each of the species as indicated. Not included are calls directly to the COS, calls from RCMP, and City Bylaw officers.
The following table represents destroyed bears for the same date range.
The majority of the bear mortalities are due to insecure attractant management ie: improperly stored residential, commercial garbage. Improper maintenance of fruit bearing trees ie: not picking fruit when ripe. Once a bear gets into human sources of food it becomes habituated very quickly. Several bears were active within communities during daylight hours and showed little to no fear of people. Gordon says they euthanized several bears as a result of them creating property damage, such as breaking into sheds to access garbage or livestock.
Conflict could have been avoided in Sparwood with residential garbage, however Gordon noted a large number of residents not using their residential garbage bins properly. They failed to keep the lids latched at all times.
Conflict could have been avoided if all food related businesses in the Elk Valley switch to bear resistant commercial bins. The Elk Valley still have businesses that use commercial bins with plastic lids, bears can easily access food waste from these bins. The COS is working on getting these bins replaced, however businesses can proactively do this before there is conflict.
Approximately three of the bears destroyed in Sparwood were injured on Hwy# 3 by motor vehicle incidents and were euthanized due to injuries.
One cub of the year orphaned black bear was sent to Northern lights Rehab in Smithers – unknown what happened to the sow.
Some bears which have become habituated to garbage, which is still available to them will not hibernate. It’s important to secure all attractants year-round. The cost share program with Wildsafe BC for the fruit tree program was a success, the CO’s hopes it continues as it reduces human bear conflict and makes our communities safer. Residents are still encouraged to remove fruit bearing trees if they cannot maintain them.
Bears have been spotted in Fernie and Fernie Alpine Resort over the weekend. These bear deaths are a people problem, not a bear problem – let’s fix it. Please reconsider your actions and be responsible.