Three hours, 600 bears.
That was the goal Kootenay sculptor Denis Kleine had in mind when he invited his Kootenay Studio Arts students, as well as local artists and activists, to join him in sand-blasting ursine images into the shores of Kokanee Creek Provincial Park.
“Within BC alone, the average number of bears destroyed in the past five years is 673,” Kleine told the Star, after sharing images of the project taken via drone by aerial photographer Nick Diamond. “Within the last 24 years that number exceeded 1,000 three times.”
That number exclusively represents the bears killed by conservation officers and residents, and does not take into account those killed in hunts or on highways.
They worked to create 600 bear silhouettes, but ultimately produced 810 on April 8.
To create the images, Kleine and his collaborators used plastic and plywood cutouts to create the silhouette and then used gardening rakes to fill them in. When all was said and done, the large-scale art project didn’t quite look like a bear head, as they envisioned. But the hundreds of bears still made a stunning spectacle for passersby.
“For the last few springs, I’ve been trying to do this simple project to draw awareness to the needless destruction of bears within BC, due mainly to garbage that people just simply don’t take care of properly,” said Kleine.
“There are other reasons as well, but garbage is the biggest draw for bears. I wanted to show what a number looks like visually, not just a number that we hear.”