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Farmers must do their part, conservation officer says

A spokesperson for the B.C. Conservation Officer Service is recommending farmers erect electric fences around beehives and blueberry crops to keep out bears.

A spokesperson for the B.C. Conservation Officer Service is recommending farmers erect electric fences around beehives and blueberry crops to keep out bears.

But he says bow hunters who shot a bear on a Coquitlam blueberry farm last week were within their rights.

Const. Murray Smith said a hunter was issued with a $115 fine for not cancelling his hunting tag indicating he had shot a bear, a minor infraction, but had his hunting licence in order and had permission to bow hunt bears on property on Oliver Road last week.

"It's not a real nefarious situation," he said, adding that the hunters were "very co-operative" when they were questioned by conservation officers.

One man reportedly shot but didn't kill a 250 lb. male bear with the bow and the bruin fled into bushes next to Minnekhada Regional Park, where it was spotted by hikers, who reported it to the police.

Coquitlam RCMP subsequently called in the Conservation Officer Service, Smith said, and its officers tracked the bear until dusk last Thursday, then continued their search, eventually finding the bear in dense brush last Friday afternoon.

"The next day, knowing we had a bear that was wounded, we mustered up a couple of officers to go, one with experience tracking." The job took several hours, Smith said, because evidence of the bear's movements must be identified for each step in the woods. "The one officer said it was so hot, he was just drenched and physically exerting and it was quite rugged."

The bear was eventually shot when it was found and people were never endangered by the bow hunters, who must be close to their target (about 40 metres) when taking aim. Hunters are also required to take a 21-hour course and pass an exam before they can get a licence.

He noted, however, that the hunters may have been inexperienced because an arrow shot from a modern bow is powerful enough to kill an animal.

The conservation officers were called in to protect public safety and because the bear was wounded, Smith said. It's important not to let an animal suffer and hunters are typically required to track and finish off their kill "otherwise you'd be charged with allowing the animal that's wounded to suffer. We take that very seriously and the court does, too."

He recommended that berry farmers - as well as hobby farmers - having trouble with bears put up and maintain electric fences around their plants and their beehives, noting, "We're all coexisting with wildlife."

Earlier this week, a park official said public safety wasn't in doubt because the bear fled outside the park grounds. But a visitor, Karri Page, who arrived at the park with her toddler shortly after the bear was shot and wounded and saw the conservation officers and police said more should have been done to let people know what was happening.

dstrandberg@tricitynews.com

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