The police search for a mama bear and her four cubs at Jamie Baxter Park in Houston yesterday did not end well for the bears.
According to Smithers Conservation Officer Flint Knibbs, all bears had to be euthanized.
The B.C. Conservation Officer Service had been receiving reports of bears in and around Jamie Baxter Park for over a month.
“They had been aggressive with people on multiple occasions,” Knibbs told Houston Today. “We’ve had reports of children being chased, the bear charged RCMP on several occasions, and given the location being right beside the park and the trails that go up and down the hill there, we had no choice; for public safety reasons the bears needed to be destroyed.”
“It’s never good for us to have to put down so many bears, but when they’re charging people and chasing kids, the human safety aspect has to take precedence,” he added.
According to Knibbs, the bears had a big incentive to hang out in and around the park.
“I think what happened with Jamie Baxter is that whole hillside had a really good berry crop on it, and so with the campground being closed there, they had essentially just taken up residence – living on the campground and eating berries on the hillside for a month,” he explained.
“Buck Creek is essentially dry right now, so the salmon that usually go up Buck Creek are sitting down in the Upper Bulkley, right where Buck Creek comes in, and the bears have been down there eating fish carcasses as well.”
“So it was a whole bunch of factors – having a large food source, a mama bear that was being protective of her cubs, and people being where the bears are – it led to a worst case scenario for us.”
When asked if there is a connection between wildfires and bears in the community, Knibbs said he doesn’t believe that to be the case.
“We certainly heard that rumour as well, but this is that time of year when bears are trying to put on as much weight as they can,” he said. “Because bears are trying to put on weight right now in order to be fat enough to hibernate in the winter time, they’re eating everything in sight, and we’re continuing to get calls about bears being in the people’s garbage and people’s fruit trees around the Houston area.”
Knibbs requested that residents “clean up their yards,” making sure there are no attractants left.
“If people have a clean yard and there’s no food in it, there’s no reason for a bear to come and hang out there,” he said. “But when people have apple trees, which is a really common one for us, they are not picking up the apples and the bears get in there and start eating the apples.”
“It puts people in danger, bears in danger and it’s just not good all around,” he added. “If people can have their yards free of any sort of attractant, that definitely helps the situation.”