A black bear mother attempting to rip open a sliding glass door into a Port Coquitlam home was killed by conservation officers over the weekend after the owners’ screams failed to scare off the ursine visitor.
Conservation officers had first been called to the Burke Mountain neighbourhood on June 28 after reports that a sow and her two cubs of the year had smashed through a screen door and were found pilfering a freezer.
When officers from the BC Conservation Officer Service arrived, the family of bears was found outside, and a round of rubber bullets was used to scare them off, according to BCCOS Insp. Murray Smith, who is responsible for the Lower Mainland.
Six days later the bears had returned, again smashing through the screen door — only this time the sow approached an interior sliding glass door leading to the main area of the house.
“The bear was shaking the glass door, and biting the handle trying to open the door,” said Insp. Smith. “The residents were screaming at them telling them to get away and they wouldn’t leave.”
When the conservation officers arrived they found the family outside. Chasing the cubs up a tree, they were tranquilized and sent to the wildlife rehabilitation centre, Critter Care, in Langley.
The mother, on the other hand, was killed due to safety concerns for the residents.
“She’s gone in the house twice, the human presence hasn’t scared her,” said Insp. Smith, “We really worry about people and bears in close proximity.”
The episode sparked a heated debate on the community’s local Facebook page, with some claiming that conservation officers had tried to keep the euthanization of the sow a secret.
“Conservation officers are being quiet about it because they know people don’t like it,” Maja Lakhani told the Tri-City News, who pointed to the over 30 bears put down last year in the Tri-Cities.
Others were blunter in their accusations.
“They’re just lying about it. They’re out there killing bears and we’re sick and tired of it,” said Michelle Joyce.
After checking with his officers, Insp. Smith said there may have been some miscommunication, but that BCCOS officers strive for transparency and don’t lie to residents about operations.
“That’s not the way we operate as an organization,” he said.
The death of the sow marks the third bear killed in Port Coquitlam this year, while two have been euthanized in Coquitlam. That’s out of 986 reports across the Tri-Cities so far this year, a jurisdiction where officers have relocated a further 10 black bears due to conflict with humans.
Across the Lower Mainland, 12 black bears have been killed in 2020 out of roughly 1,800 reports.
“If anything we should have more conflict but we’ve actually had a pretty low year for the Lower Mainland,” said the inspector. “And we’re already into July.”
Smith attributes the decrease in human-bear conflict to a spring full of both rain and sun, allowing for an abundance of vegetation, and therefore, a good wild berry harvest.
“I’d like to think the public has improved [in reducing attractants]”. But I’d be surprised,” he said.
“We’ve just had a really balanced year.”