Mother bear with four cubs 'unnatural,' conservation officer says

A mother with four cubs roaming the Hart is a sign that bears are obtaining an "unnatural amount of calories" from sources like unsecured garbage containers says B.C. Conservation Officer Sgt. Steve Ackles.

He said a sow living in the wilderness will typically give birth to two cubs but the number will rise as the amount of food they can easily obtain goes up.

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"We have bears that are actually born in city limits and they have access to garbage where they don't have to go out and graze and actually have to work for their food," Ackles said and added several sows with three cubs in tow have been seen.

He said the black bear sow with four cubs has not posed any threat so far "but she will if people don't do the right thing."

As of Monday, 36 bears have been euthanized in Prince George, nearly double the 20 killed in 2019. The count has left Ackles frustrated and pointing his finger directly at the city's human population for the jump.

"People in Prince George just don't get it," he said. "They don't care that bears are being destroyed because people won't clean up their garbage and secure it.

"It's pathetic, it really is pathetic. My staff have been running at 120 per cent for the past month and half and we've been writing tickets, we've been doing the education. It's so frustrating in this day and age."

Ackles provided his comments the same morning he had to put down a bear in the Hart that had been tearing into a shed.

"I hate doing it and where I picked the bear up from, the people are going 'well, you know, these bears don't belong here.' Well, they wouldn't be here if you people managed your attractants," he said.

Northern Bear Awareness president Dave Bakker said he's noticed sharp comments on social media about scofflaws who have failed to take steps to keep bears at bay.

"A lot of people are frustrated and they're frustrated with people in their neighbourhoods," Bakker said.

On the sow with four cubs, Bakker, who lives in the Hart, said he has come across the brood a few times. "I actually haven't seen any threatening postures out of her and most of the times I've met her, it's been in the evening," he said.

Citing a study carried out in Colorado a few years ago, he said bears living in urban areas have higher reproductive rates but are also subject to higher death rates.

"Bears getting hit by cars, being killed by conservation officers because of safety reasons and what not," he said. "But we're contributing to our own problem by allowing them to get into these unnatural food sources."

According to numbers presented to city council in April 2019, 70 per cent of calls to the conservation officer service are due to bears getting into garbage and further nine to 12 per cent involves bears being drawn into yards by fruit trees.

Steps such as making sure garbage containers are stored in areas bears can't reach should be followed from April to November, "and even sometimes November isn't good enough," Bakker said.

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