A mother bear and two cubs have been destroyed in Sun Peaks after becoming too comfortable around people as a result of accessing unnatural food sources.
Sgt. Mike Sanderson of the Conservation Officer Service said this especially became a problem after the bears got into cooking oil bins from The Annex and from Masa’s Bar and Grill at the Village Day Lodge. With a daycare right in between those two locations, Sanderson made the difficult decision that the bears were posing too much of a risk to public safety.
“It happened on more than one occasion,” he said. “As bears learn a food source they keep coming back to it and so unfortunately that was going to continue.”
He added the bears were also becoming comfortable around humans and were not scaring off easily. This is dangerous with a family of bears because sows may become more defensive or aggressive towards people if it’s to ensure her cubs’ safety.
“It’s a sad situation that those bears had to pay the price for actions that could be improved,” Sanderson said. “It’s the worst thing I’ve had to do in my career so far.”
Previously, there had been reports of two sets of bears: a single bear and the family. Sanderson has not received reports recently for the single bear. With that being said, Sanderson believes it’s likely the single bear is still out there and people aren’t reporting it over the fear it will have a similar fate.
“We’re not looking to find that bear to kill it. We just want to know what that bear is doing so we can evaluate whether it’s posing a safety concern to the public. Or if it’s into things that are unnatural, if we can correct that,” he said.
With at least one bear potentially still in the village, Sanderson wants to urge the community to be cautious about their attraction management. At this time of year, bears are preparing for their denning season by eating calories and gaining weight. They have a strong sense of smell and will hunt down any food they can.
Sanderson said that typically when a bear’s natural food sources are covered in snow, they begin to den. But if it continues to find a food source, the bear could delay it’s denning season or not den at all.
“It’s critical that we continue to step up our efforts in managing our attractions so there are no unnatural food sources available to those bears to give them the best chance of having a natural dening season.”
Garbage, pet foods, berry bushes, fruit-bearing trees and bird feeders are all attractants for bears, said Sanderson.
In 2017, Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality was working towards becoming Bear Smart Certified. The community formed a nine-person committee and worked with WildSafeBC to begin to complete the six steps required to receive the certification. It was an effort that took place for over a year, but has not yet been completed.
After having to destroy the bears, Sanderson hopes that Sun Peaks can think about becoming a Bear Smart community again.
“I hope that there is something positive that comes from this,” he said. “I look forward to working with the municipality and the resort and the community members moving forward to try to raise awareness of the importance of attraction management in the community so that this doesn’t have to ever happen again.”