Two garbage-habituated black bears put down, multiple violation tickets issued in Oliver

2 garbage bears destroyed

Conservation Officers are pleading with the public to look after their garbage and attractants around their property, after having to put down two male adult black bears in Oliver that had become garbage-conditioned and human-habituated.

“The education is out there, people know how to prevent bears from becoming a public safety threat and it's people's lack of action that is causing these bears to die,” said Sgt. James Zucchelli, conservation officer in the South Okanagan.

Over the past two weeks, the BC Conservation Office Service received more than 15 calls about bears accessing insecure attractants just north of Oliver in multiple RV, trailer and mobile home parks.

“We've been tracking these calls, trying to do public education, trying to get people to manage their attractants so we don't get into a public safety situation where these bears become conditioned to human sources, become habituated and become a public safety threat.

“Unfortunately, what has occurred at [one] RV park, there was an open dumpster that was completely unmanaged and the bear was getting in there.”

A resident of EZ RV Park located north of Oliver said he saw the bears in recent weeks, and saw the bear trap conservation officers set up to capture the first and then the second bear. He said park residents look after putting their garbage away, but worries the bins there aren't secure.

“[The bears] all got into the bins. The lids are supposed to be metal and they are not, they are plastic,” he said.

“So of course the bears just pull the god d**n lids down and get into the big bin of garbage.”

Zuchelli said proper lids are key to keeping bears out and avoiding fines for property managers.

“Unfortunately, because there's a plastic lid on the garbage lid on the garbage can, that doesn't constitute a bear-proof garbage can or a wildlife-proof container,” Zucchelli said.

He stated because of the lack of action taken to prevent wildlife from getting into attractants, tickets were issued to multiple businesses and individuals in the area related to these calls.

“I can't specifically say who because it's an enforcement action, or what businesses were charged, but there was enforcement action taken in the lack of attractant management and attracting dangerous wildlife onto the property,” he said.

“It's up to whoever is managing the property to be managing the attractants.”

Conservation officers followed through on the reports of bears going through garbage throughout the RV property, before deciding the best course of action.

“Our response is to try and categorize the bear's behaviour ... and unfortunately this bear was categorized as a bear that needed to be removed just because of the degree of conditioning to human food sources,” Zucchelli explained.

Unfortunately, bears who become very garbage-conditioned and human-habituated bears cannot be released back into the wild.

“They keep coming back continually, they're not seeking out natural food sources and they lose their fear of people,” Zucchelli said, adding that instead of the natural, normal bear behaviour of fleeing when people show up, they stand their ground.

“Then there's this defensiveness that the bears will display a defensiveness of the garbage or the food source and that's where the public safety gets put at risk.”

“They do not scare away and they continually keep coming back. They become conditioned to these non-natural food sources, human food sources that are so high in caloric value they're addicted to it and they just keep coming back.”

While many people question why the bears can't be placed further away from human populations, Zucchelli said that once they get that food source in their mind, they are just going to keep coming back to that.

“Plucking them off into the wilderness, everybody thinks that these bears would be in a happy place. They end up either getting killed first in that habitat or they end up trying to get back to the location where they were relocated from and getting into trouble along the way.”

“It's a very difficult situation for us to put ourselves in, the conservation officer doesn't want to go out and have to kill garbage conditioned bears ... We end up being the bad guy trying to come in and deal with the public safety aspect of it. ”

Zucchelli asks people to also not just post the bear sighting to social media, but to actually call in to them to help the officers be aware of the bear before more bad behaviour happens.

“We're not just going to show up and kill every single bear that is reported, we're going to try and understand what is the attractive problem here and how do we fix it.”

Conservation officers will be targeting communities where there is continual non-compliance with the attractant management laws and issue violation tickets.

“We've been saying this message for as long as I've been a conservation officer for 22 years, and every year we are saying the same message to all the communities that were dealing with ... If you're in a situation where you know there are bears around, don't have anything that would tempt them to break that barrier, keep them wild. “

“People's irresponsibility with the garbage and it's not just the trailer or RV park, it's continual throughout all of these communities in the Okanagan and the province for that matter.”

Anyone with a wildlife concern is urged to call the RAPP Line at 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP)

For more information on how to bear-smart your property, click here.

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