Conservation officers enlisted the help of Prince George Fire Rescue on Wednesday morning to retrieve a trio of black bear cubs from a tree in College Heights.
Their mother, who had become habituated to feeding on garbage and was creating trouble, had to be put down, conservation officer Eamon McArthur said. She left behind four cubs and attempts to trap them proved fruitless as they simply moved to a different tree.
"We managed to get a dart into the biggest one but then the rest moved too far up the tree," McArthur said. "They were small and sometimes it's hard to get a good shot and then the branches cause issues as well.
"Because it's a slow-moving projectile, any kind of outside influence can affect your shot so rather than sit there and shoot darts all day at bears way up in the tree, we called the fire department."
Firefighters brought a truck equipped with a ladder and bucket and up conservation officers went with a jab pole to tranquilize the animals.
All four are less than a year old so there is hope they can be returned to the wild. They are now in the care of the Northern Lights Wildlife Society rehabilitation centre in Smithers.
McArthur said it was the first time he's ever called on PFR for help. The action took place on O'Grady Drive between Parent and Bernard Roads, and not far from Southridge Elementary School.
A mother bear taking care of so many cubs is a rarity and McArthur suspects one of them might have been adopted. "He looks a little bit bigger than the others and he looks a little different," he said.
Since April, conservation officers have had to put down about a dozen bears. That's about half the number euthanized by the same point last year which is an improvement but far still far from a clean record.
"It's still a battle," McArthur said and put the blame on households leaving out attractants, particularly garbage containers rather than storing them inside their garages or sheds until collection day. If you need to keep your container outside, use a rachet strap to prevent bears from causing havoc, he urged.
"I understand that some people have garages that they've turned into something like home gyms and they don't want stinky garbage sitting there and that's why we have the intermediary with the rachet strap to hold the lid down," McArthur said. "That way you can keep it outside."
Containers can be put out on the street no earlier than 4 a.m. - and no later than 8 a.m. - on collection day and must be off the curb by 7 p.m. the same day.
Prince George is a "high bear-traffic area," thanks in part to the city's proximity to the Fraser and Nechako rivers and people need to live accordingly in McArthur's opinion.
"People are the reason that these bears keep coming back and people are the reason that these bears get destroyed," he said.