A black bear seen repeatedly scavenging for garbage in Fairview was shot by a Nelson Police Department officer Tuesday evening.
Police attempted to call in a conservation officer, who could have potentially trapped or tranquilized the animal for relocation, but none were available and police were forced to destroy the bear.
Police chief Wayne Holland said officers had responded to several calls about the same bear over the previous six days. It had become habituated to human interaction and, he said, if it had been relocated, it likely would have returned to populated areas in search of food.
“It had no fear of humans,” Holland said. “It had found a number of specific food sources in the area and was returning to the same places over several days.”
Officers spent over an hour trying to coax the bear into the forest. Eventually it climbed a tree in front of a vacant home at 707 Fifth Street. It stayed there until the officer shot it.
“There were a lot of pedestrians and citizens standing around, it was starting to get dark and it would have been too dangerous to leave it up there,” Holland said.
Wendy Horan, an ecologist who lives near where the bear was shot, watched the whole thing from her deck. She was horrified by how the situation played out.
“I was yelling off my deck, ‘don’t shoot it.’ I just couldn’t believe people were just standing around watching and nobody seemed to have a problem with it,” she said.
Having formerly lived in Whistler, Horan said she used to see bears walk down the street all the time. The difference, she said, is that the bears wouldn’t find any food to entice them to come back.
“It was illegal to keep your garbage outside in Whistler,” she said. “It was a different mindset. If you knew one of your neighbours was leaving garbage out, it was really frowned upon.”
She believes if Nelsonites shared a similar attitude, the bear would have passed through the neighbourhood without incident.
“It was a three year old bear, probably fresh away from its mother and just trying to eke out a territory and it’s going to go where it’s easy,” she said. “Problem bears are only problem bears because of us.”
This is the second bear shot in Nelson this summer. A young grizzly was shot by a conservation officer near the Nelson City Campground in early July.
Police chief Holland said there has also been a lot of concern about a bear frequenting the Rosemont area and Granite Pointe golf course.
“People have been saying it’s a grizzly bear, but that hasn’t been confirmed,” Holland said. “We know it’s becoming habituated as well and may become a concern.”
There have been two or three other bears that wondered through Nelson without becoming a problem, according to the chief.
“The number of bear reports police received each year used to be about triple what we see now that we have the Bear Aware program,” he said, referring to a provincially funded program focused on educating people on ways to reduce human-bear conflicts.
He encouraged residents to visit the Bear Aware website to learn how to avoid attracting bears. The website is bearaware.bc.ca.