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Kelowna  

Irresponsible trash disposal leads to 6 bear deaths

Death sentence for 6 bears

Someone's careless disposal of trash over a long period of time has led to the death of six bears in an area around Lake Okanagan Resort.

Conservation officer Sgt. Jeff Hanratty says officers were forced to put down three bears Sunday, one Monday and two on Tuesday.

Hanratty says the action was necessary because of someone's poor "attractant management," which over a long period of time has caused those bears to lose their fear of people, and become a public safety concern.

"This is a long-term bear attractant issue that we were unaware of. We've dealt with the unsafe bears that need to be dealt with.

"We have garbage habituated, day-active bears that have lost their fear of people and have become a public safety concern."

Hanratty wouldn't identify those responsible, but did say a charge has been laid.

"And I can further tell you a dangerous wildlife protection order has been issued again with regards to the attractants that led to these bears."

He said conservation officers had no choice but to destroy the bears. Even if they were relocated, he says the chances are very good they would make their way back.

He adds a bear used to dining on human scraps would likely not be able to return to its natural hunting instincts.

"Once they get on to non-natural food sources and they have achieved those high calorie food rewards with ease, going back to a natural food source is quite unlikely."

Hanratty says people need to understand it is human behaviour that is attracting wildlife, which forces conservation officers to make the unenviable, but inevitable decision to put the animal down.

"We need to focus on prevention. We've got to stop training these bears and habituating them in the first place. This is preventable thing.

"You drive around our communities and you see garbage cans in carports, up on decks, and those bears come in, they get that food reward, that high calorie easy food. They are slaves to their biology this time of year, and their biology tells them to put on the calories, and that's the easiest way to get those calories."

A bear safe audit is being undertaken around the province, ensuring property owners are adhering to bear-safe practices when it comes to garbage and recycling security.

Fines of $230 can be levied for a first offence, with $570 fines for failing to comply with an order.



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