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Northern B.C. bear family captured, relocated by conservation officers

Sow bear, two cubs were captured by Conservation Officers in Fort St. John
Bear family in Fort St. John
BC conservation officers tranquilized a sow bear and her two cubs to relocate them out of Fort St. John, Aug. 29, 2020. (vua BC Conservation Officer Service)

A sow bear and her two cubs have been captured and Conservation Officers are relocating them in northern B.C.

North Peace CO Tristan Montjoy said the decision was made Saturday (Aug. 29) in consultation with biologists after two weeks of sightings across Fort St. John.

“They had been moving through town and the pattern had shown they were moving out of town, and we wanted to give them that opportunity to move out on their own,” Montjoy said.

“Unfortunately there are no predators in city limits, people have berries and fruits in their backyards, so there’s a food source here and they decided to stay around.”

Officers tranquilized and captured the bears with the help of RCMP at a home on 102 Avenue, near Surerus Park. The bears will be relocated and released within 100 kilometres of the city, Montjoy said.

"Those bears have not been exhibiting any aggressive behaviour at all, they haven’t been getting into any garbage," Montjoy said. "All they’ve been doing has been going into people's yards that had fruits or berries. They’re just bears being bears."

The bears kept the RAPP line busy as they wandered through most of the northern part of the city. They were spotted Friday wandering along 102 Street near the health unit and school board office, and crossing Veteran's Way toward the Legion. 

Montjoy said officers had been tracking their movements, but wanted to avoid relocating them because of the stress it can put on the animals.

"We were actively monitoring the situation, but wanted to give the family group of bears the opportunity to move out on their own," he said. "That would have been the safest option, and would have put the least amount of stress on the animals."

B.C. conservation officers tranquilized a sow bear and her two cubs to relocate them out of Fort St. John, Aug. 29, 2020. (BC Conservation Officer Service)

As with many residents, Denise Dyke had followed reported sightings and pictures of the bears on social media, and had even taken her kids out for car rides hoping to catch a glimpse. The sow had attracted plenty of interest for her unique cinnamon blonde fur.

Dyke and her family had an unexpected visit Saturday afternoon shortly after lunch, as the bears wandered east through the city. They watched as the bears hopped a neighbour’s fence kitty-corner to them at 92 Street and 102 Avenue.

A bear sits in a tree in Josh Trahan's backyard on 113 Avenue in Fort St. John, Aug. 18, 2020. (via Josh Trahan)

“I always joked I would open my front door and they would be there,” Dyke said with a laugh. “Within seconds, we’re running in the door and she’s running across the street.”

The bears wandered through the family's car port and into the backyard before climbing over into another neighbour's yard on 102 Avenue — “she’s got all the fruit,” Dyke said.

A sow bear and her two cubs were captured at a home on 102 Avenue in Fort St. John, Aug. 29, 2020. Conservation officers say they are being relocated out of the city after spending two weeks wandering yards throughout the city. (via Joan Evans)

Conservation officers, who were tracking the bears after they were spotted near the medical clinic earlier in the day, arrived within minutes. The capture happened over the course of about an hour after the officers planned and captured the mother bear first, Dyke said.

“She was so content there because they were eating all those berries, that I think they knew they had some time to figure it out,” she said. “I think they did great. The bears were good, and no one got hurt.”

Residents are reminded to manage and secure their wildlife attractants to limit conflicts, Montjoy said. Problem wildlife can be reported to the RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277.

- with files from Matt Preprost, Alaska Highway News

A sow and her two cubs spent the night in Josh Trahan's backyard on 113 Avenue in Fort St. John, Aug. 18, 2020. (via Josh Trahan)
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