Conservation officers were forced to destroy two bears that became accustomed to humans and eating garbage in recent weeks. (News Bulletin file)

Human carelessness blamed for deaths of two bears in mid-Island

Bears destroyed after becoming habituated to garbage and livestock

Two bears have been destroyed on the central Island in recent weeks.

In early May, a bear near Extension Road in Chase River, south of Nanaimo, was killed after it became accustomed humans and eating from garbage cans.

Last weekend a second bear was destroyed for eating chickens on a farm near Bowser.

Conservation officers say problems with bears originate with people.

“[The Chase River bear] was conditioned to human garbage and habituated to human presence. It was desensitized to people,” said Steve Ackles, conservation officer and acting sergeant for the mid-Island region.

The afternoon a conservation officer went to deal with the animal he found it rooting through garbage cans while children walked down the opposite side of the street.

Ackles said the day the bear was killed he knocked on doors in the neighbourhood trying to educate people about how to avoid attracting bears, such as keeping garbage secure until collection day.

“In a garage or a shed or a bear-resistant container,” Ackles said. “Not a bungee cord on a plastic garbage can, or beside the house or on a deck.”

Extension and Chase River border on wilderness and another bear there has taken up going after garbage, but this most recent bear can still be saved if people change their behaviour.

“If people do the right thing the bear has a chance of going back on to the natural food source,” Ackles said. “Conservation officers end the bear’s life, but the people that fail to properly store their attractants are the one’s who are killing these bears.”

Vancouver Island has one of the world’s highest concentrations of black bears, Ackles said, but there are residents who don’t have problems coexisting with the animals.

“There’s an area out in Errington where … families have been farming there for a long time,” Ackles said. “I know of one farm … where I’ve counted up to eight bears in the back end of their field every year and that particular family doesn’t have any problems with bears and coexists well.”

Ackles said the bear killed near Bowser because it broke into chicken coops was not the farm owner’s fault. The bear’s behaviour escalated after it found easy meals on other properties.

“This person was the one doing the right things and there’s others in the neighbourhood that aren’t, so it’s a progressive behaviour,” he said.

Anyone who spots conditions that could lead to the unnecessary death of a bear, please call the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line at 1-877-952-7277.