Vernon and North Okanagan
Bear killed in downtown Vernon
Oct 9, 2013 / 12:43 pm
RCMP shot and killed a bear at 4 a.m. this morning in downtown Vernon, claiming it posed a risk to a nearby elementary school and the general downtown public.
“Public safety is our business, this is a city, we are in the downtown core and people begin coming to work at 5 am.
He was in a city, not close to his natural habitat, he was in the middle of the city of 40,000 people," says RCMP Cpl. Gerry Kovacs.
RCMP say the bear was getting too close to Beairsto Elementary School, near the downtown Vernon RCMP detachment, and thus posed a risk that needed to be dealt with right away; even though it was only 4 a.m. and children were not expected on the property for several hours.
“We were faced with a very time sensitive public safety issue as we have an elementary school located literally a block away from where the bear was, and we are in the downtown core of a city that was about to come awake," defends Kovacs.
Inspector in Charge of the Okanagan Conservation Officer Service, Barb Leslie says RCMP did contact their dispatch centre in Victoria about the bear but based on the information provided it was not passed on to a local Conservation Officer.
"Unfortunately the information that was passed on was just a bear in the area, not aggressive was what was reported. That message did not get passed onto one of our local officers, however something in the situation changed that caused the RCMP to dispatch (shoot) the bear themselves," says Leslie.
RCMP say they were told to leave the bear alone and give it time to move along, which it never did, until 4 a.m. when they chose to act.
“The bear wasn’t acting aggressively at all, that wasn’t the issue, it’s just a public safety issue when we have a wild animal a block from an elementary school and within the downtown core," explains Kovacs.
“It is truly sad, but we can’t risk public safety and those decisions are tough, trust me. If it’s your child that goes to that school what side of the fence would you stand on?” adds Kovacs.
Despite some media reports, Leslie says BC Conservation Officers have not attended the scene and were not the ones brought in to collect and dispose of the bear's body.
As to whether BC Conservation will question the RCMP officers decision to shoot the bear, "We have followed up with the watch commander and at this time the matter is concluded," was Leslie's response.
"These decisions are difficult and they are sad but we have to trump public safety over wild animals every time," explained Cpl. Kovacs.
Did you see the bear in Vernon? Have any pictures? Email us at [email protected]
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