Last week, a bear got into my neighbour’s porch because she had a fridge full of food in there and nothing more than a screen door to keep them out. The conservation officer was called and a bear trap was put in the trees across from my house. After a few days a bear was trapped and it was taken away to its death. No one can even say for sure if it was the same bear or not, but the bear in the trap was taken away to die anyways.
After my kids witnessed the bear being taken away in the trap, they had a lot of questions, the biggest one being, “What are they going to do to the bear?” I explained that the bear was going to be killed. Due to people leaving food and garbage accessible to bears, they believe the bear would just keep returning here so they kill it. The children did not understand why murder was the solution and were angry and upset by this.
Around the same time period, there had also been a mother bear spotted with two cubs in the area. The conservation officer informed me that if the mother entered the trap and if the babies stayed nearby that they would be shot on site. I am not sure how they can justify this.
I believe that some people do not feel the need to take responsibility for their garbage because they do not understand the full consequence for the bears. Many people believe that the bears will just be relocated. In this area, once a bear has been in garbage they are never relocated. I have seen misleading information that would lead people to believe this, including the article in the Star on August 24, which said “the police attempted to call a conservation officer, who could have potentially trapped or tranquilized the bear for relocation.” In the letter to the editor on August 29, the writer also commented a few times that they wished the bear could have been relocated. The conservation officer that came to set the trap told me that they never relocate a black bear once it has been in garbage. People need to know the truth about this. Even if the conservation officer would have come to help with that bear in Fairview, they would have trapped it and moved it to another location to shoot it.
Killing the bears is not a solution to the problem because the problem is not the bears. The problem is the food and garbage that people leave accessible to the bears. Their solution of killing the bears is just easier (and probably cheaper, which is what things usually come down to in the end) than dealing with the actual problem.
There is an article on the internet at bearsmart.com/media/1281 which talks about the numbers of bears that are killed each year. This article is from July 2011 and it states that the five-year average is 614 black bears killed each year in BC alone.
“According to wildlife experts, bear attacks are rare. Attacks are for predatory, territorial, or protective reasons. Most wilderness attacks have occurred when there was only one to two persons in the vicinity.”
This information was taken from a Wikipedia page that gives a list of fatal bear attacks (wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fatal_bear_attacks_in_North_America). It lists 28 fatal attacks on humans in a ten-year period from 2000 to 2010 in all of North America. Based on these numbers, there is a much greater chance of being killed by your spouse than by a bear.
I am sure that all the people who watched the bear shot down from the tree in Fairview did feel empathy, but empathy without action will not change anything. As long as people leave food and garbage accessible to the bears, they will keep coming and they will keep getting killed.
Bears will always travel through this area because we live in the bear country, but if there is nothing for them eat around our homes, they will keep moving until they find a natural place to get their food. People need to be held accountable if an animal has to be killed because of the choices they make.
Whether we fight to get the system changed or whether we work together to educate and help our neighbours make better choices, we all need to do something to keep bears from being killed.