The Perimeter Trail around Willowvale Marsh and near Elks Park is now open after Conservation officers cleared seven bears from the south end of Smithers.
Unfortunately, one of the two sows and one of five cubs did not make it. The sow had to be put down and the cub suffocated after being wedged on a tree limb.
The cause for so many bears coming into town appears to once again be the irresponsible behaviour of some people.
“One thing I did learn talking to some residents along Turner Way in that Willowvale subdivision, there’s been piles of apples seen across the foot bridge. So somebody … has taken it upon themselves to dump apples. That in itself is enough to bring in bears, let alone concentrate bears in a particular area,” said Conservation Sgt. Kevin Nixon.
“The messaging needs to get out to people that it’s one thing to pick your apples and not have them available in your home, but you can’t just dump them on the edge of town either. And that’s not even the edge of town; that’s a well used trail.”
The other sow and its cubs were moved outside of Hazelton. The orphaned cubs were placed with Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter outside of Smithers.
Nixon explained the one sow had to be shot after being designated a problem bear. It was moved in April 2014 after being caught in Smithers, but walked all the way back to den by Willowvale March. Reports came that it was back last fall.
A high percentage come back after being moved, explained Nixon.
“Generally, we’re not in the business of relocating problem bears because we know they will come back, but the reality of that bear four years ago was that we didn’t know which bear it was. We knew we had a problem bear in the area the fall of 2013. Then a bear wakes up in the spring of 2014 with three cubs but we don’t know which bear that was,” said Nixon.
“Because they were near the den and not into garbage at the time, we gave them a clean slate.”
Another attractant that was briefly discussed at Smithers council last Tuesday is chicken feed. Council approved urban chickens a couple years ago with information available at the Town office on how to properly store feed when people are supposed to register the animals. Some did not take proper care.
Nixon will be presenting to Town council on May 22 about the problem.
“We were inundated with bear calls last fall,” he said. “There were at least four or five bears that we had to dispatch in town that were related to chicken feed.
“We caught the bears at the chicken coup eating the chicken feed at the time.”
After that, the bears put themselves and people in more danger.
“Once they get a feed for it because they obviously had easy access to it — then the residents are diligent and lock it up, but the bears already got a feed for it so they rip open a door and help themselves again. It’s a learned behaviour, for sure,” said Nixon.
He said the chicken feed just adds to attractants already in town like apples, garbage, pet food, and barbecues.
“When that bylaw allowing chickens in town was passed, I had expressed my concern that it’s just one more possible attractant in town that people had to be aware of and be diligent with,” said Nixon.
Proper storage is required for most attractants. With it being barbecue season, Nixon said to be sure to burn off excess grease.
Anyone who sees any dangerous wildlife is encouraged to call the RAPP (report all poachers and polluters) line toll free at 877-952-7277.