The Haisla Nation Council has confirmed that a bear sow and three cubs were destroyed in Kitamaat Village last week.
Chief Councillor Crystal Smith said Haisla Nation Council employees responded to reports of grizzly bears in the village that were eating out of dumpsters in the community on July 17.
“The bears showed no fear of humans and were habituated to eating from community waste bins,” said Smith.
“Together with the fact the grizzlies were seen in the vicinity of the community soccer field where youth soccer camps were taking place, it was determined that the bears posed a significant threat to public safety and were destroyed.”
The council did not release any further information about the incident.
A resident, whose name is known to the Sentinel, said the bears were shot on the beach below the soccer field some time between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Monday, July 17.
She said while it was sad that the bears had to be destroyed, she didn’t feel safe letting children out to play with the bears in the village.
She said there are still another grizzly and a black bear in the area and blamed the Conservation Office for not doing enough to ensure the bears didn’t become a problem, forcing the community to take action.
“The COs don’t seem to think it’s a problem. We went through the same thing a couple of years ago. Bears were getting right up on porches, going through garbage bins at homes, and the COs told us they aren’t ‘problem bears’ yet,” said the resident.
“These bears were right in one of the dumpsters by our soccer field the other night, and our council was told that there was a shortage of bear traps, so nothing could be done to relocate them.”
Conservation Officer Scott Senkiw said he was extremely disappointed that the bears were destroyed, especially since as far as he knew the sow and cubs hadn’t shown aggressive behaviour.
He said, however, that relocation is not a viable option when a bear becomes habituated.
“Provincial biologists do not support relocation. It’s not an effective method,” he said. “If it gets to that point we would remove them from the population.”
He was also concerned that the community stepped in and destroyed the bears themselves.
“There isn’t anybody in the village with the necessary specific training, and we haven’t designated anyone to perform that task,” said Senkiw. “It requires a minimum of two conservation officers to deal with a grizzly.”
He said that if a bear does need to be destroyed, the COs call on the RCMP to assist.
Senkiw added that on driving through the village it was apparent that the state of garbage disposal was a problem.
“I’m not sure why they would have the bins next to a recreational facility. The village is inviting trouble doing so,” said Senkiw.
He said fish waste in the garbage was not unusual in coastal villages like Kitamaat, but that more care needed to be taken to secure the bins.
“The bins are not up to standard, especially when it’s known that there are bears in the area. The village needs to have bear-proof containers and the fish offal needs to be moved further offsite,” said Senkiw.
“At this time of year, people need be mindful of what they’re depositing. If people don’t want to heed our warnings, things like this will happen.”
He said with the breeding season wrapping up, and the boars keeping the sows in town, residents needed to keep their garbage and other attractants in check.
“We have received a few conflict reports in the village, and speaking with the complainants, it was clear the bears were getting into the bins but that they were moving on,” said Senkiw. “This sow and her cubs weren’t candidates for destruction – they moved on fairly quickly.”
He also suggested the village consider upping refuse removal to three or four times a week during peak bear season.
He added that he is more than willing to work with the community to prevent incidents like this from happening again, but that the roles of the Conservation Office was limited to public safety and education.