Fruit trees an ‘overwhelming’ issue for grizzlies in Squamish: conservation service | Squamish Chief

Fruit trees an ‘overwhelming’ issue for grizzlies in Squamish: conservation service

A recovering local population means residential encounters becoming more likely

After successfully making a safe capture of a grizzly bear, you’d think that the Conservation Officer Service would be in a celebratory mood.

But that wasn’t the case.

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“I feel like we have a long battle ahead of us,” said Sgt. Simon Gravel, noting that this incident casts a new light on bear attractants in the community.

It’s a problem that needs to be dealt with swiftly, he said.

On Sept. 10, RCMP and the Conservation Officers Service warned the public that a grizzly was seen around the Shady Tree Pub.

For a time, authorities urged people to stay inside and stay vigilant.

The Conservation Officer Service later said that the bear made its way to a nearby residential area, where it started snacking on fruit from trees.

Gravel said that a team drove the bear away from the residences and towards the river.

At that point, conservation officers set up a bear trap, identical to the type used for black bears.

Attractants are put inside, and when the bear goes in to take the food, the door closes.

The grizzly was caught in a trap later in the evening.

It’s relatively rare for this kind of bear to make its way to residential areas in town, but Gravel said that with the local grizzly population recovering, seeing these animals in town will be a more frequent occurrence.

Younger males tend to get driven out by more mature males, so they have a tendency to explore new territory in search of food and mates. This one clearly found a food source, he said. The area behind the Shady Tree is forested, so it’s not a stretch for a bear to make its way from that zone into a populated area.

“They’ll travel,” said Gravel. “And travelling like this and looking for territory, they will encounter municipalities, communities, and if they find food sources, they’ll be in conflict with those communities. So that’s why it’s very, very important that we get better and very quickly to manage our fruit trees, specifically, in this case, but also all our waste and any other attractants.”

For now, the animal will be relocated in an area chosen by biologists, but Gravel said this is a temporary solution.

The grizzly will likely return, and it’s necessary to remove all fruit trees beforehand.

But that’s easier said than done.

“The fruit tree issue is overwhelming. It’s everywhere. It’s not dozens or hundreds of fruit trees in town — it’s thousands,” said Gravel. “And it causes serious concern and issues and major impact on our wildlife for sure.”

They must all be removed if grizzlies are to stand a chance, he said. Otherwise, they will be attracted to the food, become habituated to humans, and eventually have to be killed.

Gravel asked people who see a grizzly bear in town to report it to the RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277.


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