Five bears killed after coming too close to elementary school in Penticton, B.C.

Animals drew dozens of complaints since the summer, says conservation officer

These five bears travelled together in a pack in the Okanagan city of Penticton, B.C., before being put down by conservation officers on Thursday. (Submitted by Tobe Sprado/Conservation Officer Service)
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Five bears were destroyed by conservation officers in Penticton, B.C., Thursday after the group ventured too close to an elementary school.

Tobe Sprado, an inspector for the Okanagan region with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, says the service has received 44 complaints about these particular bears since August.

“We were hoping that we’re going to be able to coexist with these bears,” Sprado said. “But things had escalated over that period of time.”

Sprado said the bears were attracted to garbage and fruit, and were starting to cause property damage.

On Wednesday afternoon, things escalated after one of the bears charged a person out walking.

“That [was] an aggressive behaviour that definitely put these bears more on our radar,” Sprado said.

“Then when they entered into the vicinity of the elementary school, we ended up making the decision to put down all five bears.”

The children and teachers were kept inside until the bears were shot dead.

Bears can cause problems in towns and cities as they look for food to eat before winter hibernation. (Submitted by Rachel Rowbottom)

Unusual grouping

Sprado said the bears would travel together in a pack, unusual for black bears. The group comprised three adult male bears and two females who were sub-adults.

“It wasn’t your typical sow with the cubs at all … [it’s] a bit of an anomaly from what we’re used to dealing with,” he said. “They could be a bunch of siblings.”

Sprado said his team was emotionally drained and frustrated by the turn of events.

It comes a little over a week after six bears were shot in the space of three days in the area of Lake Okanagan Resort northwest of Kelowna. In that case, the bears were eating garbage that hadn’t properly been secured and had lost their fear of humans.

An undisclosed company near Kelowna was fined $230 and ordered to improve the way it stores its garbage.

Sprado implored people to safely secure bear attractants like garbage, fruit, as well as pet food, bird feeders, barbecues and compost.

Woman sentenced to jail for freeing crying bear cub from trap in New Jersey

A judge sentenced a woman to 15 days in jail for freeing a crying cub from a bear trap.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/bear-trap-cub-jail-new-jersey-a8802206.html

Municipal Court Judge James Devine sentenced Catherine McCartney, 50, on Thursday, NJ.com reported. McCartney, who has a record of arrests related to bear hunt protests, pleaded guilty to obstructing “the administration of law and the prevention of the lawful taking of wildlife”.

McCartney, a dedicated animal rights activist, plans to appeal the sentence, relating to the incident in in Vernon, New Jersey.

In a statement she read in court, McCartney said she did not regret her decision in rescuing the bear cub from the painful trap.

“These animals are innocent and so I made the moral decision to let the bear go so he could run back to his mother, and it was the right thing to do,” she said.

The incident in question took place in October in a condominium complex. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection said it installed two culvert traps inside the complex campus to capture a bear—known as “Momma Bear” by activists—following two incidents with residents. None of these incidents resulted in injury.

Mark Nagelhout, who helped McCartney free the cub, also plead guilty to the same charges. However, he did not receive a jail sentence since this was his first offence.

Both defendants were also fined $1,316.
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Timber Corporations Can Keep Killing Bears, Judge Rules

OLYMPIA, Wash. (CN) – Washington state’s rules allowing corporate timberlands to use traps, bait and dogs to kill bears are legal, a judge ruled Friday, even though voters banned those exact methods decades ago.

In the early spring, black bears emerge from hibernation, ravenous. Most of the plants they eat are still in their own winter sleep. At that time of year, the sap of young trees is one of the most nutritious foods available. They strip the bark and feast.

But those meals cause millions in damage, according to Washington’s commercial tree farmers. So the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife lets landowners hire hunters to kill bears on their property. And the permits the department issues specifically allow hunters to use methods voters banned 20 years ago based on their cruelty.

The Center for Biological Diversity sued the department over that apparent discrepancy in May 2018, claiming the policy had killed an estimated 2,000 bears and orphaned numerous bear cubs.

Attorney Claire Loebs Davis argued on behalf of the center at a hearing on Friday.

“This case is not about a dispute over wildlife policy,” Loebs Davis said. “It’s about whether state agencies must stay within the law. You may think the indiscriminate killing of bears is cruel. But we are not attempting to legislate through litigation. Here, legislating was done by the voters, the chief sovereigns of the state. The agency believes voters made a mistake and that it can elevate its judgment above theirs. They are allowing trapping, baiting and hunting by private owners just as if the voters had never spoken at all.”

Loebs Davis also said the department ignored its own science and the opinions of the experts it employs and didn’t even consider whether future tree damage would actually be prevented by killing bears randomly caught in traps – arguments the department’s attorney appeared to concede at Friday’s hearing.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy questioned Assistant Attorney General Amy Dona about Loebs Davis’ claim.

“Is there some documentation in the record that shows we considered this, we waived these things, this is a higher priority than this other thing?” Judge Murphy asked.

“Insofar as counsel is saying the agency did not consider the impact of the removal of a certain number of bears, the agency did not think about that,” Dona said. “They were thinking about issuing permits.”

“What about the effectiveness of this rule?” Murphy asked.

“That was not the central consideration,” Dona said. “They were not engaging in substantive review of the program at that stage, they were thinking, ‘what will we need to have in place for people to get permits?’ They said we know there will be issues but we are going to brainstorm and think about those further down the road.”

Loebs Davis said leaving out such critical information rendered the rule “arbitrary and capricious” – basically, that it was made on the basis of a random whim.

“The law does not say that the rule can be arbitrary and capricious as long as you do the real work later,” Loebs Davis said. “It doesn’t say you can ignore the science and review it at a later time and it does not provide an exception when an agency says it would just be too difficult for us to go through the normal rule making process.”

But Judge Murphy ruled that the policy can continue.

“After reviewing the entire record, there may be additional input that would have been helpful, including data and opinions, but that is not the test in this court,” Murphy said in her ruling from the bench. “The court does not determine the best policy or reweigh the interests. The court considered whether the rules complied with and did not go beyond the agency’s statutory authority. They did not.”

Pair of surviving Banff bathroom bears adapting to new wilderness home

Three black bear cubs found in a Vermilion Lakes washroom in April 2017 have been returned to Banff National Park. Photo by Parks Canada

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From the bathroom to the backcountry, two orphaned black bear cubs rescued from a public restroom two years ago seem to have successfully re-established themselves in Banff National Park, officials say.

The two sisters were among a trio of three-month-old bear cubs mysteriously abandoned in a public restroom at the Vermilion Lakes rest stop in April 2017, and were sent to the Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Ontario in hopes they could successfully be reintroduced into the wild.

Last July, the yearling cubs were returned to the Banff wilds, though within weeks one was killed and eaten by a suspected grizzly bear.

The remaining two, however, managed to avoid a similar fate and hunkered down in dens to hibernate over the winter months.

Blair Fyten, human wildlife coexistence officer with Parks Canada, said there had been some initial concern in the spring that the now two-year-old adolescents had met with an untimely end.

“When they came out of their dens in the spring, one of the collars went into mortality mode,” he said, noting the tracking collars begin emitting the specialized signal when they are stationary for more than six hours.

“A couple of weeks later, mortality mode went on on the second one.”

Orphaned bear cubs pictured at the Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Ontario. ASPEN VALLEY WILDLIFE SANCTUARY FACEBOOK

While it took some time to get wildlife officers into the remote area, when they arrived they discovered the bears had managed to shrug off the collars and venture off, free from overt human monitoring.

The collars had initially been set to fall off on their own at the end of summer, but given the bruins were somewhat heavier than their wild counterparts due to their time in the sanctuary, it’s likely they slipped easily out of the tracking gear after losing weight while hibernating, Fyten said.

“We found the collars, but there were no signs of carcasses or predation,” he said.

“The good news is we think these bears are roaming around out there doing what bears do.”

The presumably surviving cubs remain tagged and officials hope they will eventually trip one of the many wildlife cameras that dot the national park to confirm the bears are indeed healthy and thriving.

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Fyten said despite the positive signs, the duo still face an uphill battle, as do all young bears who strike out from their mothers for the first time.

“It is an age where they are out on their own but they are still somewhat vulnerable at two years old,” he said.

“When you look in a natural setting, a female with three cubs, it’s pretty rare all will survive.”

Fyten said roughly 65 black bears are active in the lush valley bottoms in Banff National Park, where they spend much of their days foraging for berries, which have seen a bumper crop this year.

The optimal conditions for bear feeding has also resulted in a bump in black bear sightings by humans this year, he said.

“It’s been super busy with all kinds of bear activity,” he said, noting grizzly bears, which tend to dwell higher in the park’s mountain rangers, have been quieter than usual.

“Last year we had a very good berry crop, so we’ve seen a lot of cubs getting kicked out by their mothers and trying to find their way.”

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2 bears euthanized in Yellowstone National Park, search for third underway

MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS, WY – Two black bears have been killed in Yellowstone National Park this year and officials are looking for third habituated black bear – all three bears reportedly showed no fear around people after acquiring human food and becoming food-conditioned.

According to park officials, last month, a  black bear bit into an occupied tent and bruised a woman’s thigh (the bite did not break the skin due to the tent fabric and thick sleeping bag)

That incident occurred at a backcountry campsite along Little Cottonwood Creek

Black bear sniffing dumpster near Ice Box Canyon; Jim Peaco; June 14, 2015; Catalog #20152d; Original #IMG_3675

Rangers suspect that this might have been a bear that gained access to human food in this same area in previous years. Over subsequent days, rangers set up cameras and a decoy tent at the campsite to determine if the bear would continue this behavior. With rangers present, the bear returned and aggressively tore up the decoy tent. The bear was killed on-site on June 11.

In early July, at a backcountry campsite along the Lamar River Trail, campers left food unattended while packing up gear allowing a black bear to eat approximately 10 pounds of human food. Campers who visited the same campsite the following evening had numerous encounters with the same bear. Their attempts to haze the bear away failed. Rangers relocated multiple campers from the area and the bear was killed on July 10. The incident is still under investigation.

Since July 18, at the front country Indian Creek Campground, a black bear has caused property damage to tents and vehicles in its search for human food. Park staff actively hazed the bear from the campground, but also set up cameras. If the bear returns, managers will take appropriate actions based on the current circumstances, including additional hazing or removal.

Park staff have had a busy summer responding to bears in campgrounds, backcountry campsites, and along roadsides. Visitors are reminded to stay at least 100 yards away from bears at all times and to store food and scented items properly.

Once a bear acquires human food, it loses its fear of people and may become dangerous. This process is called “habituation.” The park has killed two habituated black bears this year and is trying to capture a third. All three bears exhibited bold behaviors, showed no fear around people, and have demonstrated food-conditioned behavior.

Park officials say these incidents serve as unfortunate reminders that human carelessness doesn’t just endanger people; it can also result in a bear’s death. Allowing bears to obtain human food even once often leads to them becoming aggressive toward people. Learn more about what you can do at go.nps.gov/yellbearsafety [go.nps.gov].

According to officials, Yellowstone National Park does not typically relocate bears for three reasons: 1) there are no areas in the park to move the bear where it wouldn’t have the continued opportunity to potentially injure someone and damage property, 2) surrounding states do not want food-conditioned bears relocated into their jurisdictions, and 3) adult bears have large home ranges, good memories, and could easily return to the original area.

It is common for visitors to observe black bears in Yellowstone. About 50 percent are black in color, others are brown, blond, or cinnamon. Learn more about black bears [nps.gov].

Bear attacks worker during wildlife tour at Pennsylvania resort

The resort said that it has “ensured the enclosure is completely secure” and is arranging counseling for guests and staff who witnessed the attack.

UPDATE: Three bears killed in Maple Ridge this spring

(files) People are reminded, to not leave out food that can attract bears.

https://www.mapleridgenews.com/news/two-bears-killed-in-maple-ridge-this-spring/

Fourth one shot, but ran off into forested area in Silver Valley on Wednesday.

The latter two were shot in the Silver Valley area for public and officer safety reasons, said Sgt. Todd Hunter, with the Conservation Officer Service.

Only one from Wednesday was confirmed dead, however.

Veronica Clark, in the Silver Valley Neighbourhoods Facebook group, shared a video of conservation officers dragging what appears to be a dead bear onto a truck.

Andrea Ross said in an email that she witnessed a bear shot by conservation officers on Foreman Drive in Silver Valley.

“But the bear was not fatally shot and ran off into the bushes. Very, very sad.”

Nicole Caithness, a conservation officer based in Maple Ridge, said a brown-coloured black bear was shot in the early afternoon on Wednesday on Foreman Drive.

It had been reported going into Silver Valley garages, approaching people, and was not “hazed off” even when a resident activated a car alarm to try and scare it away.

Once shot with a high-powered rifle, she said the bear ran into the wooded area north of Foreman Drive.

Conservation officers tracked the bear, but were not successful in locating it.

Caithness believes the injury will prove fatal, but said a large animal can cover ground even after sustaining a killing wound.

“All the signs point to that he was fatally shot,” she said.

Approximately two hours after the first bear was shot, a second large adult black bear was killed. He approached an unarmed wildlife safety officer, and the decision was made to euthanize the bear.

“He was extremely habituated to people, and frequenting the area in broad daylight,” Caithness said.

She added that residents of Silver Valley must be more vigilant in removing attractants, and noted even recycling put out the night before pickup attracts bears.

She warned that a 500-pound black bear is still an excellent climber, and residents who are putting bird feeders on their second-storey decks are not keeping them away from bears.

“It’s definitely our busy time of the year,” Hunter said earlier.

Hunter said as bears emerge from “torpor” – a period of inactivity that allows them to survive with little food – there’s not a lot of natural food available to them. He added they start looking for high-calorie food sources, such as beehives, chicken feed, household garbage, pet food and bird feeders.

Two other bears have been killed in Maple Ridge since April because they had become habituated to food sources that brought them into conflict with humans and were deemed a danger.

In the North Fraser Zone, which stretches from Anmore, west of the Tri-Cities, to Deroche, which is east of Mission, there have now been eight bears shot – seven confirmed as killed – since April 1.

Both the Conservation Officer Service and Maple Ridge Wildsafe community coordinator Dan Mikolay are campaigning to get people to keep their garbage secured, making it less of an attractant to bears.

Mikolay said that is critical to do so in May and June, as bears become more active.

READ ALSO: Study shows black bears need a variety of salmon species to be healthy

Mikolay urges people to:

• take garbage to the trash the morning of pickup, not the night before;

• wrap and freeze bones, waste meat or other highly attractive garbage before putting it out;

• don’t leave pet food outside;

• fill bird feeders only during harsh winter weather as seed attracts bears, as well as deer and rats, and therefore the animals that prey on them – coyotes and cougars.

“You’re going to have the whole food chain showing up,” Hunter said.

READ ALSO: Can’t kill bears for eating honey

• The Ministry of Environment Report All Poachers and Polluters line is 1-877-952-RAPP to report wildlife conflicts.

Colorado Wildlife Officers Kill First Bear Of 2019

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) – Wildlife officials in Colorado have killed a bear near Meeker after previously relocating it from Steamboat Springs. The Steamboat Pilot & Today reports that Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers killed the bear Monday after it disturbed a farmer’s beehive.

Officers relocated the 2-year-old cinnamon-colored black bear on April 8 after the animal got into several residential dumpsters downtown.

(credit: Kevin Dietrich)

Officers tranquilized the bear after it approached a day care center.

Steamboat resident Kevin Dietrich captured several photos of the bear.

“Such a great looking bear. Lock up the trash fellow downtown residents,” Dietrich wrote on Facebook.

(credit: Kevin Dietrich)

Steamboat area wildlife manager Kris Middledorf says this is the first bear the agency has killed in the state this year. Middledorf says days like Monday, where wildlife officials have to put down an animal, are “the worst.”

(credit: Matt Helm)

Middledorf urges residents to be vigilant about securing their trash and other wildlife attractants.

To Survive in Texas, Black Bears Need an Open Border

As a child Diana Doan-Crider loved hearing her grandfather’s tales of the grizzly bears and wolves he saw in the early 1900s while working to build Mexico’s railroads through the mountains. A Tepehuán Indian from Durango Mexico, he told vivid stories, and his knowledge of nature inspired her to become a wildlife biologist when she grew up and to spend decades researching black bears in northern Coahuila’s mountains, just across the Texas border.

That was an important time for black bears, which had all but vanished from Texas in the 1950s following decades of hunting, trapping and habitat loss. The animals started to return to Texas’s Big Bend National Park in the late 1980s. At first it was just a handful of bears, but soon visitors began reporting dozens sighted a year, including females with cubs.

Doan-Crider’s pioneering research, published in 1996, helped confirm what Texas wildlife managers long suspected: Black bears were regaining a foothold in southern Texas, not from other U.S. states but from Mexico.

Mexico has a thriving bear population, thanks to its mountainous expanse and greater cultural acceptance of the animals, both of which also made the recolonization possible, says Doan-Crider, who is now an adjunct professor at Texas A&M University and executive director of a nonprofit called Animo Partnership in Natural Resources.

“Mexico’s bear habitat is so huge, and some local densities are the same as what you’d see in Alaska,” she says. “You can see 25 bears in one day.”

The bears, Doan-Crider and other researchers found, were crossing into Texas from Mexico through the Sierra del Carmen Mountains, which are only separated from the mountains in Big Bend by the Rio Grande River.

Big Bend, which was established in 1944 when there were no bears in the area, is a stunning and geologically diverse landscape of mountains, desert and river that stretches for more than 1,200 square miles along the border where West Texas dips into Mexico. It’s also good habitat for the returning bears, and it quickly became a safe haven for the animals.

Today, with the bears still reestablishing themselves, Texas lists the black bear as a threatened species.

This fledgling recovery could now be in jeopardy, however. Experts worry that any obstacle to the animals’ movement, such as President Trump’s proposed border wall, would set back hard-fought efforts to rebuild the population — especially with climate change intensifying the episodes of drought and wildfire that serve as key drivers for bears expanding beyond their usual range.

“The ability for wildlife to move across that border is so important,” says Patricia Moody Harveson, a research scientist at Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University. “We would not have black bears in Texas anymore if it wasn’t for that transboundary movement across that border.”

It’s not clear whether the Trump administration plans to construct the border wall through Big Bend, although it continues pressing forward with plans to build the wall through the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge and a 100-acre butterfly refuge.

The National Park Service declined a request to be interviewed for this story.

A volunteer ranger at the park, who did not want to be identified, told The Revelator that talk of the wall is, “all buttoned up.” But he said it “goes against everything the park stands for” and wondered how a wall could be built when heavy machinery is banned from the park, even for the removal of old telephone poles.

Bears, of course, are only one of many species, from reptiles and amphibians to bighorn sheep, which would be affected by the proposed wall. Beyond Texas, conservationists recently claimed that building the wall would be “game over” for recovering jaguar and ocelot populations in Arizona.

Jonah Evans, state mammalogist at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, agrees with Harveson that, “when it comes to bears, being able to travel across large areas is important to recover their populations and thrive in a landscape as challenging as West Texas.”

Evans can’t say how big the bear population is in the state, but he says they’ve mapped breeding populations in just three of Texas’ 254 counties.

“Right now, we have very few,” he adds. “It’s a pretty isolated population.”

Bears are tough to count, because they cover huge distances and are expensive to catch and monitor. Texas Parks therefore relies on data from trail cameras and from voluntary reports of bear sightings by ranchers, such as at deer feeders.

Based on those reports, Evans says Big Bend National Park is “clearly one of the core breeding populations that we have.”

He adds, “If you don’t have breeding, you don’t have bears.”

Climate Change and Cross-Border Movement

Extreme weather events appear to be a key driver for bears crossing the border, according to Doan-Crider’s research.

“We’re now looking at how drought and events like wildfires are a driving mechanism for expanding a bear population,” says Doan-Crider. “Normally females might not leave their home range, but once those droughts hit, once wildfires come in, they will cover huge distances to find some habitat.”

Her research correlates maps of food sources like oak trees (acorns) and prickly pear with bear movements, documenting that female bears will travel twice as far as in times of drought, or what she calls the “threshold of misery.”

Black bears can have enormous ranges during these periods, as great as about 380 square miles, she says.

This can drive bears from Mexico into the United States or force them to journey in the opposite direction. Other researchers, including Dave Onorato and Raymond Skiles, the recently retired wildlife biologist for Big Bend, have also documented these border crossings during drought. At one point in the early 2000s, when food was scarce in Big Bend, all the bears left for Mexico and then returned a year a half later. Similarly, Harveson noted that two bears the Borderlands Research Institute was radio-tracking crossed over into Mexico during the severe 2012 drought.

Invisible Wall

As “horrified” as she is by the proposed border wall, Doan-Crider says she’s more concerned about what she calls the “invisible wall,” or the lack of social acceptance and lack of preparation bears hit when they cross into Texas.

Most wildlife managers and researchers are focused on Big Bend, but Doan-Crider says she thinks bears are also crossing into Texas farther east, from the mountains just south of Laredo, where Mexican land cooperatives are protecting bears. They don’t stand a chance on the U.S. side, she says, because of the likelihood that they’ll come into contact with humans who aren’t used to living with bears, or with landowners who have deer-hunting operations.

Meanwhile, Harveson says the breeding population at Big Bend appears to be spreading into the Davis Mountains, about 150 miles to the north. That could also put them at risk.

“As bears move into areas they haven’t been in for more than 50 years, we look for that potential for human-bear conflict,” she says. The Borderlands Research Institute plans to study the corridors that bears are using to traverse this distance, as well as their use of habitat and movements within the Davis Mountains. “We’d like to help make the adjustment easier.”

Doan-Crider agrees that more steps need to be taken to protect the black bears that have returned to their former range.

“If Texas wants to do something about bears, they should be putting a lot of money into educating the public,” she stresses.

Doan-Crider says the question of the wall, and the bigger question of bear recovery, is more about, “Do you want to have bears in Texas?”

If the answer is yes, then keeping the border open — especially at Big Bend — is vital.