So far Northern Lights Wildlife Society has received five grizzly bear cubs from Bella Coola this year (NLWS photo)

Another sow grizzly destroyed in Bella Coola Valley; two more cubs orphaned

A total of five grizzly bear cubs have been sent to Northern Lights Wildlife Society from Bella Coola

Another sow grizzly has been destroyed and two more cubs of the year have been sent to Northern Lights Wildlife Society after the bear repeatedly broke into unprotected and weakly protected chicken coops in Hagensborg.

“This sow went from chicken coop to chicken coop in multiple different sites for about two months,” said Conservation Officer Hana Anderson. “There were at least five chicken coops in the area that she accessed.”

Anderson said that some sites did not have adequate electric fencing and the bear was easily able to get at the chickens. At another site a property owner did install a bear-specific electric fence, but the sow was so accustomed to testing the fences she managed to breach it during a short hour power outage.

“She must have been walking by testing it,” Anderson said. “She was really persistent with the chicken coops.”

However, it was an increase in close and surprise encounters between the sow and cubs and people near the chicken coops that Anderson said ultimately led to her destruction.

Anderson said the cubs, both sows, were very healthy and were picked up by Northern Lights shortly after the death of their mother. She said the conflict started with the sow accessing unsecured chicken feed before the chickens, but that it quickly escalated.

“If people are going to have chickens in prime grizzly habitat, they should factor the cost of electric fencing into having chickens,” said Anderson. “That’s for safety for themselves and their chickens. There were a number of situations where the cubs were stuck inside chicken coops and she was waiting outside.”

In a separate incident, a lone adult grizzly bear has been breaking into vehicles in the Saloompt area, leaving at least one completely written off.

“There were four vehicles that were damaged at two different sites, with one vehicle no longer driveable,” said Anderson. “In my experience bears breaking into vehicles is an advanced learned conflict behaviour and likely starts with a bear feeding on unnatural food near peoples houses or vehicles, like garbage or pet food.”

Anderson said it’s very important not to have any food stored in vehicles, and to roll up the windows and lock the doors. It’s also important to have a good sight line to your vehicle to avoid a surprise encounter.

At present there is no trap set for the lone bear because they are being used downtown to try and trap a sow and two very large cubs that have been accessing food via people’s decks, carports, fish tubs, and accessing hanging game meat.

“In early summer these bears were raiding fish tub and eating fruit before they disappeared, probably to feed on salmon,” said Anderson. “They have now come back and they have been going up on porches and into carports. They are feeding on garbage and breaking into sheds and smokehouses.”

One of the bears was reported to have charged someone in early summer, and recently this happened again while the bears were feeding on garbage in a carport.

“There’s some food defensive behaviour right downtown on the street towards pedestrians,” said Anderson.

Anderson said that, based on her experience in the past two years, 2020 has had fewer conflicts in comparison and that conflict usually completely drops off by the last day in November. However, bears are still fattening up and in their hyperphagia stage, so, as always, securing attractants remains of the utmost importance to keep people and bears safe.

“I think we should reasonably expect that bears are going to be up and about around here until at least mid-December,” said Anderson. “Securing garbage, recycling and attractants so they aren’t getting rewards is key.”

A total of five grizzly bear cubs, four sows and one boar, have been sent to Northern Lights this year. This is now tied for the highest number ever received by the organization, which was also five grizzly bear cubs in 2010. A total of three grizzly bears have been destroyed this year: two were sows with cubs and one was an older, lone female.

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