A mother bear and her two cubs were killed on Monday after they had been seen living off of garbage in Summerland, with no fear of human interaction.
Conservation officer Barb Leslie says they have been getting calls about bears coming out of hibernation at the lower elevations since early March, but this case was a little different.
“That sow and cubs had denned up in a culvert in Lower Summerland. We had started receiving sightings of them being out of the culvert around mid-March. The cubs had actually lost their fear of people and were getting into a lot of garbage,” explained Leslie.
“The hillside was littered with the garbage and any place we could see where they bedded down, there was all garbage around it.”
Leslie says they were called out Monday to a property near the Summerland Waterfront Resort & Spa. Evidently the cubs had been going in and out of a pickup truck canopy, where the garbage had been stored.
“(The sow) went out looking for easy food and taught her cubs how to find easy food. And because the hillsides haven’t really greened up yet, the garbage was a high calorie source for them. So they got very quickly habituated to the garbage and its unfortunate that we had to put down the whole family unit.”
The general health of the animals factored into the conservation department’s decision to put them down, as did the bears decisions to continually seek out easy food sources regardless of any proximity to humans.
Leslie also points out the female bear was estimated to be around 250 pounds, or very large for a bear who had supposedly just awoken from a winter hibernation. Meanwhile the cubs were estimated to be around 50 pounds each. This was considered small for bears that were in their second year.
“She obviously didn’t hibernate,” says Leslie, who theorizes the bear had been eating garbage all winter.
“We know we’re not popular with the people in that community, but with facing public safety issues, the decision was made. We have to protect the public and unfortunately in this situation for the bears, the garbage killed them."
Leslie also offered up some tips that the public can use to ensure animals don’t wind up in the same predicament.
- Keep garbage locked up until the morning of pick-up.
- Don’t leave anything available in your yard.
- Keep the area inhospitable to bears.
Conservation officers are keeping an eye on a handful of other bears in the area, but Leslie says those animals have posed no risk to the public at this time, and have not come down looking for easy food.
Send photos and video of the Summerland bears to [email protected]