Editorial: Don't blame conservation officers for bear deaths

It's up to everyone - strata residents, businesses, officials, homeowners and renters - to keep neighbourhoods clean so bears don't want to stick around

The summer of 2019 isn’t shaping up to be the worst season for bear deaths in the Tri-Cities but it’s getting close, thanks to the high-profile deaths of a half dozen bruins in Coquitlam and Port Moody in recent weeks.

This year, thanks to social and traditional media, we know more about these tragic, and possibly needless deaths. And while 15 bears were euthanized in the Tri-Cities in 2016, a large number to be sure, we are disturbed that at least six bears have been destroyed this summer for doing nothing more than what nature intended for their survival.

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That's too bad because, except for a few notable exceptions — garbage left unsecured at businesses in Coquitlam Town Centre, campers along the Coquitlam River with food and waste carts set out early in Mundy Park and Chineside areas — residents have been doing a good job of keeping control of attractants.

Indeed, the city of Coquitlam reports that fines and warnings are down this year because fewer people are setting their green carts out early and changes to garbage set-out times have ensured that these food-laden bins are accessible to bears for shorter periods.

But that’s where the good news ends.

For most people, conservation officers included, it’s terrible that bears have been destroyed for becoming habituated to neighbourhoods where food is accessible.

In one case, it was a sow with two cubs that was euthanized and, according to recent reports, this situation that could have been prevented if people who saw the bears earlier in the year had reported their concerns. At that time, before the bears started hanging out near Spani Pool in Mundy Park, they could have been candidates for relocation.

In another case, two cubs were left orphaned when the mother bear was euthanized, with a neighbourhood in Port Moody in shock to see officers armed with tranquilizer guns on their streets.

It’s because these bears are making their home in urban neighbourhoods that they are becoming a cause for concern.

There has been an outcry now about the officers' actions but imagine if a child playing outside their home was hurt by a bear — the criticism would be that authorities didn’t act quickly enough.

In the meantime, there are many suggestions for solutions and the Karelian dog bear chasing method — certainly the most intriguing — may not be all that effective for an urban area. Although aversive conditioning has been known to keep bears from yards, it’s not certain all bears can be kept away from known food sources.

What we need are neighbourhood watches made up of residents, including strata owners and businesses, especially restaurateurs, and farmers who will work together to get rid of attractants, and report to authorities those who don’t.

It’s through collaboration, cooperation and vigilance that the number of bear deaths in the Tri-Cities can be reduced.

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