Family made to bear with troublesome bruin and cubs

Conservation officers won’t relocate bears from Old Town.

A Sicamous woman is resigned to the fact she and her family must co-exist with a menacing bear sow and her cubs.

Living on Old Town Road, Jennifer Dunlop says it’s not unusual to see bears in her neighbourhood, and her yard, especially at this time of year. While she knows better than to leave attractants on her property, the abundance of wild fruit in the area, as well as salmon in the nearby Eagle River, make Old Town Road properties part of prime bear habitat.

“We’ve had bears here for years,” said Dunlop. “We probably have seven of them here this year. When they’re not a nuisance, you don’t really care. They do their thing, you do your thing and everybody goes on their way.”

For the past month-and-a-half, however, Dunlop says a mother bear and her cubs have been crossing through her yard daily, damaging her property and posing a risk to her family and neighbours.

“I have a son that goes back and forth to school and I’ve been driving him,” said Dunlop, well aware of what can happen when one comes between a mother bear and her cubs. “My neighbour has seen the cub across the street and it’s been crying, and then the mom will come across from another section of the street and get it. Well, if you’re going down the middle of the road, she thinks you’re a threat – that’s not good.”

Dunlop has made calls to the Conservation Office, hoping to have the mother bear and her cubs relocated, but has been told that won’t happen, that the bears have already picked out their hibernation spot and relocating them would put them at risk.

Conservation officer Tanner Beck confirmed this, stressing the Conservation Office does not relocate bears except in extraordinary circumstances.

“It does not work,” he said. “They’ll travel hundreds of kilometres to get back to their home territory. And it’s hard on them… They don’t know where to find food or anything like that, and then they’re competing with whatever bear basically owns that territory.

“So, being where she is, there’s the mountains on one side of her property, there’s the Eagle River on the other side. It’s prime bear habitat, there’s always going to be bears there. It’s learning to live with them.”

Beck also doesn’t consider the sow a nuisance bear – bears that show aggressive behaviour towards humans or are breaking into structures or attacking and killing livestock – which, as a last resort are put down.

“Accessing fruit trees and wild fruit trees… those issues aren’t something that, in my mind and in a lot of CO’s minds, would mean destroying an entire family unit of bears,” said Beck.

Dunlop is adamantly opposed to having the bear killed so, with the CO reluctant to relocate, she says will continue to co-exist with caution until the bears are in hibernation.