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UPDATED—‘It escalated very quickly’: Bear dead after wandering into occupied Whistler home

Conservation officers are warning locals to keeps doors and windows closed after receiving numerous reports of bears entering homes throughout Whistler in recent weeks.
Black bear garbage near lakeside park in Whistler BC
A black bear is pictured on Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 16, accessing garbage leftover by illegal campers near Whistler's Lakeside Park. A different bear was killed by conservation officers five days earlier, after entering an occupied family home in Creekside.

A black bear is dead after conservation officers received several reports of bears entering buildings in Whistler in search of food last week—including one that found its way into an occupied family home and refused to leave.

Whistler-based conservation officer Brittany Mueller said police were initially called to Creekside’s Nita Lake Lodge on Friday, Aug. 12 after a large, untagged black bear strolled through the hotel’s front door at around 2 a.m.

The animal scoped out the lounge area and left the same way it arrived, but managed to find a food reward before leaving.

Later Friday morning, the same bear turned its attention to neighbouring Roland’s, causing damage to the building in its attempt to enter the pub’s kitchen and garbage room. The bear, in this case, bluff-charged staff that attempted to scare it away.

Finally, the BC Conservation Officer Service (COS) received another call through 911 dispatch at around 8:30 a.m. about a large black bear that had strolled into a Creekside home while its residents were present. When Sea to Sky conservation officers and Whistler RCMP arrived at the scene the bear was still in the family home, where it had already caused damage to the property and found food in the kitchen.

According to Mueller, the bear wandered into the second floor of the residence through a sliding door it had accessed by climbing a narrow, confined set of stairs located behind the house—“almost like a tunnel,” she explained—startling the family members that were home at the time.

Conservation officers’ first order of business was ensuring those residents were safe and out of the building, before going in and trying to haze the bear out of the home .

“Of course it’s a confined space, so bears can get stressed,” Mueller said. “This bear didn’t seem stressed at all. He was quite comfortable and actually defending his food source.”

She continued, “Even when I tried to push it out of the house, it had a clear escape route to the outside, and it refused to leave its food source. It was starting to bluff-charge at me—even yelling at it, moving towards it, nothing was getting [the bear] to exit the home.”

In just six and a half hours, the bear had visited three different properties where it entered occupied buildings, caused damage and bluff-charged, ultimately posing a risk to the public, Mueller said. “It escalated very quickly.”

The adult male black bear was killed by conservation officers following the incidents.

Mueller said the situation was surprising, as COS hadn’t had any recent reports of concerning behaviour in the Creekside area. The bear was very large, healthy and untagged—meaning conservation officers hadn’t previously interacted with the animal. “It literally came out of nowhere,” she said.

However, the bear wasn’t the only one to wander into a Whistler residence in search of food recently. Mueller said the COS has received about five reports of bears entering homes or condos in several different neighbourhoods within the last two weeks, often through the second storey.

Mueller acknowledged it can be difficult to keep doors and windows closed in hot temperatures, but warned leaving them open risks welcoming uninvited guests into your home.

The intrusions "are happening in communities like Creekside, Nordic, Rainbow, and Nesters. They are all different bears, and they’re just very determined to find food reward and they will enter into any open window or door,” she said, adding, “It’s almost like it’s happening every other day, that we’re having a different bear enter a different home.”

Mueller also advises residents who spot a bear on their property to make noise and attempt to make the animal feel uncomfortable around their residence. Air horns can be effective tools, she said.

This marks the third black bear euthanized in Whistler this summer and the second due to conflict. The first was a humane decision after a sow was observed to be emaciated and beyond the point of recovery early in the season, while another adult black bear was killed in the resort last month after "demonstrating escalating behaviour that posed a safety risk," including making contact with a person and accessing food in Whistler Village's Rebagliati Park.

Sightings of bears visiting properties can be reported to the COS at 1-877-952- 7277, while unsecured animal attractants within Whistler should be reported to Bylaw Services by phone at 604 935 8280 or email at bylawservices@whistler.ca