Conservation officers should do more to save B.C. bears, advocate says

By Michael Williams, City News 1130

With over 500 black bears reportedly destroyed in the province within the last year, one advocate says that number is far too high.

The BC Conservation Officer Service is reporting 504 black bears were put down in 2021.

Ellie Lamb, who works with the BC Bear Alliance and North Shore Black Bear Society, says the number could be well above 500 but there’s no way to know as the officers follow their own guidelines.

“Certainly there’s not 500 or 600 bears in a year that need to be killed. We need to be kind to these animals. Conservation is not kind to these animals, period. They’re just not,” she says.

“We take their homes and then we say, ‘Let nature take its course.’ It’s kind of unfair.”

Lamb believes the number of displaced cubs from these killings is alarming, and for the most part, unwarranted. Young cubs can’t usually survive harsh B.C. winters without their mothers.

“We need the mums to not be killed first, and then the cubs picked up if the mums are killed,” she says.

She  would like better accountability within the conservation service. “They don’t have a public board, and yet they are the only policing organization that does not have a public board. So how do we know what their work consists of?”

She thinks the approach to bears in neighbourhoods is over simplistic.

“Conservation have one way of looking at things, and that’s, ‘When this bear is in garbage, when this bear does this, we kill it.’ They don’t move bears. When they leave with a truck, they’re taking the bear away. Very seldom have they relocated a bear,” she says.

“Bears have always been around, and they come into our communities looking for safety, primarily.”

She says trying to eliminate attractants is unrealistic, and co-existence with the wild animals should be the goal. “There are some rules we have to abide by. We need an understanding of how to communicate to bears to get them out of our neighbourhoods.” She wants tickets handed out to homeowners who are breaking bylaws.

Lamb stresses community members can do their part by picking up their garbage, cleaning up any food left out in the open, and writing letters to their MLAs to express concern for bear safety. She also suggests reaching out to local grassroots groups like North Shore Black Bear Society for tips on how to respond to a bear sighting before calling BC Conservation.