15-year-old who set up memorial for bear killed near Thetis says change needed

15-year-old who set up memorial for bear killed near Thetis says change needed
CHEK

The grade 9 girl who set up a memorial for a bear killed by B.C. conservation officers last week says she was devastated when she found out the mother of three had been killed.

“I was distraught,” said Alaina Miller, who lives in View Royal near where the bear was caught.

The black bear sow and her three young cubs had been spotted for the past month around Thetis Lake.

On Friday, conservation officers put the bear down, saying it had been conditioned to eating garbage and its minimal fear of people meant that relocation or rehabilitation would be too risky to the public.

“The COS received multiple reports over the last month of the bear accessing unsecured attractants in the area — including along trails at Thetis Lake Regional Park — as well as climbing onto residential porches to access food,” the Conservation Officer Service told CHEK News in a statement.

“The bear also had an ear tag, meaning it had already been moved by Conservation Officers from a residential area in Langford in 2019.”

Miller, 15, had never bumped into the quartet and had been happy to share the trails with the brood.

“The momma bear has been sharing it with us. It’s her space,” Alaina quickly corrected.

Hearing of her death Friday, Alaina put up a memorial with fresh flowers, poems, and even a bear statue.

“I thought we might as well send off her spirit so she knows everyone didn’t find her scary,” she said.

Living near this wildlife corridor, she and her mother, Andrea Miller, hear community concerns over wildlife every year. They say View Royal’s bylaws around garbage bins and pick-up need to change to keep both the community and bear safe.

“The current bylaw just reads that you have to have your garbage out by 7 a.m.,” said Andrea. “You can put it out two days before, four days before. Other municipalities restrict it, so you can’t put it out early like that.”

View Royal’s mayor told CHEK News he’s always concerned when wildlife dies due to human interaction.

“I will discuss the issue with Staff and Council and seek ways we can mitigate the risk. As well, I will ensure we are doing all we can at CRD Parks to reduce the risk of wildlife exposure to garbage,” said Mayor Sid Tobias.

It’s municipal changes like those which Fur-Bearers, a charity that advocates for the protection of fur-bearing animals, encourages.

Through a freedom of information request, Fur-Bearers found that 581 black bears were killed by B.C.’s Conservation Office in 2021. In 2022, 500 were euthanized.

The deadliest cities for B.C. black bears in 2022:

  • Prince George: 32
  • Nelson: 21
  • Castlegar: 14
  • Okanagan Falls: 12
  • Revelstoke: 12
  • West Kelowna: 12
  • Nanaimo: 10
  • Port Alberni: 10

Crunching the numbers, Fur-Bears found two Vancouver Island communities (Nanaimo and Port Alberni) made their list of deadliest cities of black bears for 2022.

“To have 500 bears killed every year, with the average even more, it’s unacceptable, and more needs to be done,” said Aaron Hoffman, advocacy directory for Fur-Bearers.

They’re calling on local governments, businesses and residents to do more to address the number of black bears being killed.

“Wildlife is typically seen as a provincial responsibility, but provincial officers cannot respond to every potential attractant issue like unsecured garbage, or every incident of wildlife feeding. Municipalities need to take leadership and implement measures to manage attractants, including garbage, bird feeders, fruit trees, and wildlife feeding,” said Hofman in a release.

“These efforts will help protect people and wildlife.”

But it was too late for the mother bear at Thetis Lake, whose triplets are now being raised without her at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre in Errington.

“How sad is that,” said Alaina. “Imagine just one day your mom is gone.”

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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