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The urban bear


On my rounds of Squamish Neighborhoods I chat with a lot of people. What do we talk about? Bears, of course. One of the questions asked over and over again is: "Can't they all be relocated? Did that bear really have to be destroyed?"

The sad truth is not all bears can be relocated and those bears that are getting into trouble and fall into this category must be destroyed in order to maintain a degree of safety in our community.

Let's look at a situation developing in West and North Vancouver as observed by bear biologist Wayne McCrory. Due to available garbage on the North Shore, bears have been food conditioned going on generations.

Now, a population of these bears never leaves the city limits. They feed, sleep, fornicate, den and raise their young within the urban areas and never travel up into the mountains or into the greenbelts to forage for natural bear food.

Cubs learn what to eat from their mothers, so if all they learn to eat is garbage, that is what they will eat and in turn, that is what they will teach their young.

One of these urban bears would be a very bad candidate for translocation. It would be signing its death warrant just as surely as pulling the trigger - only its death would be slow and painful through starvation. That is only if it survived the wrath of the healthy natural bears that already claimed the territory it was dropped into.

The Timber Town bear's mother was a garbage bear and as a result, so was he. The only way this bear could have been saved is if his mother had never had the opportunity to eat our garbage. We can't save that bear but we can save other bears. By allowing bears access to our garbage, we in essence are pulling the trigger ourselves.

On that note, the second Bear Aware garbage can raid of Garibaldi Highlands took place on July 6, and 10 households had their garbages out the night prior to collection day. Of these 10, only one was a repeat offender from the first raid on June 22.

Kris Hopping is co-ordinator of the Bear Aware program in Squamish.

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