A black bear shot and killed by RCMP in the city of Prince Rupert on Sept. 10, was done so as a matter of public safety both Conservation Officer Service (COS) and RCMP said.
The adult male black bear was seen wandering around an upper west side residential neighbourhood and park in the late afternoon and early evening on Thursday. Social media posts show the bear wandering through the McKay dog park grounds and running through a town-home complex in the vicinity.
The bear was destroyed in the 600 block of Fulton Str. at 7:30 p.m. by RCMP officers, Cpl. Devon Gerrits of the Prince Rupert RCMP said.
“Police act under a public safety mandate. RCMP don’t have tranquilizers guns,” Gerrits said. “It was a safety concern to have a bear roaming around … It’s not a good scenario.”
RCMP are advising residents to ensure any garbage and compost is secured and properly stored in bins.
Conservation Officer Service Sergeant Tracey Walbauer said a lack of natural food sources is creating problems for predatory species this year.
“We are having a higher conflict year than we have seen in many years. We are attributing it to a low berry patch. The berries didn’t ripen this spring because it was too wet. Also, the high water is pushing out all the dead fish, so bears don’t have that protein source this time of year. We are dealing with lots of adult bears who are very hungry and very thin.”
Once bears become habituated to non-natural food sources, Walbauer said they can not be relocated.
“When they start to feed on those non-natural food sources like garbage and compost, then they become used to people, and then they become a public safety risk. We do not relocate black bears when they are like that.”
Bear aggression is always a fear Walbauer said because with high non-natural food sources there always an opportunity for bears to become defensive in surprise encounters.
“You could step out of your door and there is a bear in your garbage can. He may not intentionally try to hurt you but he’s going to defend himself.”
Predators like wolves and bears are being seen more in communities due to the lack of food sources that are caused by a combination of issues Walbauer said. These could be the lack of food and also some encroachment by industry into animals’ natural surroundings thus creating reciprocal encroachment by predators into human communities.
“When that happens, you are obviously going to see more and some of the non-dominant are going to be pushed into areas where they will try to survive as well. Sometimes that is our communities.”
Bears need protein-based food at this time of year to put on weight for sleeping or they won’t make it through the winter, he said. They will ‘den die’ where they just succumb to freezing to death in the den.
“They could also get up in the winter, which becomes a problem because they can’t take in enough food in the wintertime to put themselves back into a dormitory state. They will stay up and get into trouble.”
K-J Millar | Journalist
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